In a recent study, researchers at Case Western University have discovered how to store different forms of artificial short-term memory in the isolated brain tissue of rats. These findings help to explain how short term memories are formed. Your ability to recall the melody of a song you just heard on the radio is an example of short-term declarative memory.
In this study, researchers stimulated the hippocampus of a rodent using isolated pieces of rodent brain tissue, and forming a memory in which one of four input pathways was activated. Following the stimulus, nerve cells in the hippocampus retained an imprint unique to the stimulation that was received. They maintained this memory for more than 10 seconds.
These findings are an important contribution toward understanding how sense data is held by the brain in the moments after a perception has occurred. Studies like this one also create a foundation for decoding the subtleties of degenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson’s.
As scientists continue to gather data about memory and learning, those on the front lines of consciousness research may be able to leverage these studies in their efforts to optimize learning and harness our innate neuro-plasticity.
Image by Patrick Hoesly, courtesy of Creative Commons licensing.