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New Study Reveals New Insight in How Memories are Made and Accessed

Mar 21, 2013 01:45 PM EDT

A new study released by the Salk Institute for Biological Studies reveals in greater depth not only how our brain navigates memories, but may also shed light on how scientists might further understand neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's.

Specifically, the research unveils how the dentate gyrus, a sub-region of the hippocampus, keeps memories of similar events and places separate.

Fred H. Gage is the paper's senior author and professor of genetics at the Salk Institute. Based on their research, Gage explains in an article on the Salk Institute's website, the brain appears to make separate recordings even in similar environments that are then stored in the dentate gyrus.

This is done, he says, as the brain activates a different group of neurons based on a person's environment.

Earlier studies, however, refute this theory. They instead suggest that the same groups of neurons are used in different environments and that our brain instead recognizes changes based on the speed at which the electrical impulses are sent through the neurons.

Wei Ding, a Salk postdoctoral research who aided in the study, attributes the discrepancy as most likely the result of former studies' tendency to focus on different sub-populations of neurosn in the dentate gyrus.

The findings do not, however, show that recalling memories results in reactivating the neurons used when the memory first occurred.

Knowing this, scientists hope they are better prepared and able to address not only neurodegenerative diseases, but head and brain injuries as well.

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