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How Memories Form and Fade #Neurology #Neurobiology #Memory @Caltech

Researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have discovered that strong memories are encoded by teams of neurons working together in synchrony. Why is it that you can remember the name of your childhood best friend that you haven’t seen in years yet easily forget the name of a person you just met a moment ago? In other words, why are some memories stable over decades, while others fade within minutes?

“Imagine you have a long and complicated story to tell. In order to preserve the story, you could tell it to five of your friends and then occasionally get together with all of them to retell the story and help each other fill in any gaps that an individual had forgotten. Additionally, each time you retell the story, you could bring new friends to learn and therefore help preserve it and strengthen the memory. In an analogous way, your own neurons help each other out to encode memories that will persist over time.”

Memory is so fundamental to human behavior that any impairment to memory can severely impact our daily life. Memory loss that occurs as part of normal aging can be a significant handicap for senior citizens. Moreover, memory loss caused by several diseases, most notably Alzheimer’s, has devastating consequences that can interfere with the most basic routines including recognizing relatives or remembering the way back home.

This work suggests that memories might fade more rapidly as we age because a memory is encoded by fewer neurons, and if any of these neurons fail, the memory is lost. The study suggests that one day, designing treatments that could boost the recruitment of a higher number of neurons to encode a memory could help prevent memory loss.

The paper appears in the August 23 of the journal Science and is described in this article (I think….)


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