Different memories stored in dead rats' brains

Posted by Kate Taylor

The neuroscience professor who three years ago succeeded in storing information in slices of brain tissue has now been able to do the same thing for different types of memory.

"This is the first time anyone has found a way to store information over seconds about both temporal sequences and stimulus patterns directly in brain tissue," says Dr Ben Strowbridge of Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.

"This paves the way for future research to identify the specific brain circuits that allow us to form short-term memories."

He and his team were seeking to better understand the mechanisms underlying short-term declarative memories such as remembering a phone number or email address right after hearing it.

Using isolated pieces of rodent brain tissue, they found that they could form a memory of which one of four input pathways was activated. The neural circuits contained within small isolated sections of the brain region called the hippocampus maintained the memory of stimulated input for more than 10 seconds.

"The type of activity we triggered in isolated brain sections was similar to what other researchers have demonstrated in monkeys taught to perform short-term memory tasks," says MD/PhD student Robert Hyde. "Both types of memory-related activity changes typically lasted for five to ten seconds."

The new research expands upon previous work in which isolated pieces of the hippocampus were made to store which one of two inputs was stimulated.

The research, says Strowbridge, could help lay the groundwork for understanding how neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease, affect memory. It could also aid the development of new, more effective treatments for memory impairments associated with aging.