Apr 12, 2017 11:49 AM EDT
It has long been believed by scientists that the human brain stores memories by following a two-step process. It was believed that memories were first stored in the brain's in short-term memory (hippocampus), and later on moved to the long-term memory (cortex).
However, a new study by U.S. and Japanese teams has proven that this might not be the case. The new research by the Riken-MIT Center for Neural Circuit Genetics, published in the journal Science, may change the way we view neurodegenerative diseases that attack memory.
The study shows that the brain actually makes two simultaneous memories: one is a present, though temporary, and the other goes into long-term, according to Futurism. The findings were surprising, but also beautiful and convincing, experts said.
Research director Susumu Tonegawa said the results were surprising and it is contrary to popular hypothesis that has been in place for decades, according to BBC News. He adds the finding is a significant advance as compared to previously held knowledge.
The U.S. and Japanese teams arrived at the conclusion after conducting experiments on mice. They observed that specific memory forming after a shocking stimulus. Using light beamed into the brain, which controls individual neural activity, they were able to switch memories on or off.
The mice forgot about the shock when researchers turned off short-term memory in the hippocampus. However, turning on long-term memory in the cortex, the mice were able to remember. Another surprise popped up during the testing when they discovered if the connection between the cortex and long-term memory is blocked, the memories are blocked too.
Tonegawa who previously discovered that mice with Alzheimer's are still able to form memories, however, those memories are just rendered inaccessible. With this research, they hope the study would provide new insights into diseases that induce memory loss, such as Alzheimer's and dementia.
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