By Jackie Wattles, CNN
Researchers in New York developed a virtual reality maze for mice in an attempt to demystify a question that’s been plaguing neuroscientists for decades: How are long-term memories stored?
What they found surprised them. After forming in the hippocampus, a curved structure that lies deep within the brain, the mice’s memories were actually rooted through what’s called the anterior thalamus, an area of the brain that scientists haven’t typically associated with memory processing at all.
“The thalamus being a clear winner here was very interesting for us, and unexpected,” said Priya Rajasethupathy, an associate professor at Rockefeller University and one of the coauthors of a peer-reviewed study published in the journal Cell this week. The thalamus “has often been thought of as a sensory relay, not very cognitive, not very important in memory.”
This new research, however, indicates that it could play a vital role in converting short-term memories to long-term memories. And Rajasethupathy said that should make the thalamus a key area of study for researchers attempting to help patients who suffer from conditions such as Alzheimer’s, who are able to recall old memories but may have trouble remembering new information.
“it implicates a part of the brain — the thalamus — in the long-term storage of memories in a way that wasn’t even hypothesized by anyone else,” said Loren Frank, a professor of physiology at the University of California San Francisco, who was not involved in the study.
Categories: Health, Medicine, Mental health
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