In the past two months there have been an unusual number of seemingly breakthrough studies in brain science published – hard core things that involve mapping and tracking neurons. All of these findings are getting researchers closer to understanding how the brain forms, stores, and accesses memories and what happens when things go wrong in that neuronal network.
It felt like there were too many gems not to share a brief bit and a link to at least a couple of those pieces of game changing scientific inquiry.
Two studies, summarized in Science Codex, might just re-shape how science looks at the neuro-degeneration that leads to cognitive decline as part of dementia. The first study, out of University of California, San Francisco, looked at “wiring diagrams” of the brain in specific diseases and how their “epicenters” relate to disease progression. The second, out of Cornell’s Weill Medical College, builds on that model and could, as the body of research and practice expands, lead to a means to predict cognitive decline with disease progression. That feels huge….
Researchers out of University California, San Diego found a way to gain partial control of a specific memory. Yes, it is animal research and yes, the research group acknowledges that this is just step one in the monumental task of unlocking how memories are formed. This group, however, is working on how to control thoughts and memory formation by turning neurons off and on. The implications are pretty darn staggering.
Princeton University researchers found a way to detect patterns in neural activity that underly how the brain forms short-term memories that are used in making decisions. They found specific patterns of neural firing that relate to specific actions – there is a distinct and recognizable difference in neural firing between when the subject (the mouse) turned left or right. I know that sounds small but, since these clear findings are contrary to how neuroscientists believe working memory works, this type of inquiry and finding might lead to a real way to identify problems in working memory. Oh the places that discovery might lead….