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Scientists improve working memory by expanding brain signals

A study by researchers at New York University School of Medicine found that short-term memory can be improved by artificially propagating neuronal signals called sharp waves. The discovery may lead to new treatments for memory disorders, including Alzheimer's disease.

Researchers focused on short term memory

Sebastian Kaulitzky | Shutterstock

The study focused on working memory, which is responsible for storing temporary information that will be used to complete the task, such as memorizing routes and routes around a new place to be used later during the day, or calling numbers to record a phone number. ,

The researchers found that due to the lengthening of sharp wave waves (oscillatory patterns local to the hippocampus and surrounding areas of the brain that are involved in memory consolidation) in rats, they remembered the path through the maze better to find a cure for sugar water.

Sharp ripples occur when nerve cells send electrical impulses to organize memories. As explained in the study, "sharp wave pulsations (SPW-R) in the hippocampus are considered a key mechanism for memory consolidation and action planning."

During the experiment, the maze route developed by the researchers for the rats changed, so the rats had to use the opposite route to the route they had previously chosen to receive the reward. To achieve this, rats had to use their short-term memory, to remember, not to repeat the same route, to find sugar water.

The researchers used multisite electrophysiological recordings with optogenic activation of the pyramidal neurons of the hippocampus and artificially extended the sharp ripples to assess how this affected the short-term memory in rats.

To increase the pulsation of sharp waves, hippocampal cells were designed to include light-sensitive channels. Shining through small glass fibers, they successfully activated neurons and added more neurons to the natural sequence.

It was found that not only the expansion of sharp wave waves improved the speed of short-term memory, they also used slow neurons in their sequences. Previously, the research team found that neurons with a slower launch change their properties more easily than neurons with a quick launch when new information is being studied.

Dr. György Buzsáki, MD, Professor Biggs, at the Faculty of Neuroscience and Physiology of the Faculty of Medicine at New York University, spoke about the significance of the new study, which was published in The science by 14go June 2019

Our study is the first in our field in which artificial changes were made in the patterns of internal neuronal excitation in a brain area called the hippocampus, which increased the ability to learn, instead of interfering with it, as in previous attempts.

After decades of research, we finally understand the mammalian brain well enough to change some of its mechanisms so that they can design the design of future treatments for diseases that affect memory. ”

Alzheimer's disease is a condition characterized by short-term memory loss, but studies on the treatment or prevention of this disease have not yet found a significant breakthrough.

The study authors conclude:

“Our results show that a simple measure, such as the duration of an SPW-R, can provide valuable information about basic neural computing. Learning and proper handling in spatial memory tasks were associated with advanced SPW-Rs. ”

The first author of the study, Antonio Fernandez-Ruiz, Ph.D., who is a doctoral student at the Buzaki laboratory, explained the following steps that the research team would take to advance its discovery.

Our next step will be to try to understand how abrupt oscillations of waves can be continued by non-invasive means, which, if successful, would have implications for the treatment of memory impairment. ”

A source:

Long waves of hippocampal pulsations improve memory. (2019). The science. DOI: 10.1126 / science.aax0758.

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