Brain News – Researchers at the University of California, Irvine, show how the hippocampus area in the brain arranges and recalls experiences in sequences. The researchers combined neuroscience and data science to understand the neuronal processes involved in memories.
In the experimental phase, researchers used electrophysiological recording methods to observe the firing of neurons in rats’ brains as they performed memory tasks and odor identification tests.
In the data analysis phase, the data from the electrophysiological recording was applied into deep machine learning methods. Using data science approaches, the data was analyzed with a convolutional neural network (a method used in facial recognition).
The findings, published in Nature Communications, showed how brains capture memories in a sequence. The study revealed how the hippocampal network encodes and preserves progressions of experiences to help decision-making and future behavior planning.
More specifically, the researchers are able to show how specific patterns of spiking in neurons retrieve information in a sequential pattern. This pattern of spiking activity across all recorded neurons is called an ensemble.
The researchers are enthusiastic that the results can help in the better understanding of memory failures in cognitive disorders like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
One of the lead authors, Norbert Fortin, said, “Where it connects with everybody is that this type of memory is strongly impaired in a variety of neurological disorders or simply with aging, so we really need to know how this brain function works.”
The study is a novelty, because it is the first one to reveal the neuronal mechanisms behind the brain’s ability to record and recall specific memories in a sequence. It is also an excellent example of interdisciplinary research.
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Shahbaba, B., Li, L., Agostinelli, F. et al. Hippocampal ensembles represent sequential relationships among an extended sequence of nonspatial events. Nat Commun 13, 787 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-022-28057-6