How Long-Term Memories Are Formed Can Shed Light On Alzheimer's Research [VIDEO]
The Massachusetts Institute from of Technology (MIT) has just released results of a study on how long-term memories are made and accessed in the journal Science last Friday.
The standard theory on how long-term memories are made believes that memories are transferred gradually from short-term memories in the hippocampus to the neocortex for long-term storage. The researchers were surprised however, that the new study showed that the two types of memories were made at the same time in the hippocampus and the neocortex, Science Alert reported.
Previous studies have enabled the researchers to follow the path of engrams, which are neurons that are involved in a memory, and learned how they behave when recalling an event. These neurons were easily switched on or off to remember an event just by using light.
When the scientists tested this procedure in observing the reaction of mice to an electric shock, they observed that the rodents were not using the neocortex in the first few days to recall the event. They made the mice "forget" the event by turning off the engrams at the hippocampus and then they saw that the mice could be triggered to remember the event if the neocortex was switched on, BBC reported.
The study showed that the long-term memory was silent a few days after its formation. The study also showed that the memory did not mature if the connection between the neocortex and the hippocampus is blocked. The researchers hope that the study may have the answers to questions in Alzheimer's research. There are cases of dementia where patients can still form memories but the brain is unable to access them.
This study on how long-term memories are made is also important to psychology because there might be a way that positive memories are reinforced and the painful memories erased. The researchers are still looking into the possibility of doing more studies to verify how long-term memories mature, or if the hippocampus loses all traces of a particular memory after a period of time.