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Published:March 25th, 2013 00:26 EST
How Our Memory Works is as Fascinating as the Eighth Wonder of the World

How Our Memory Works is as Fascinating as the Eighth Wonder of the World

By Ron G Anselm

"Sometimes finding items you misplaced and trying to remember where you originally put those items can be as challenging for some people as trying to put together a Rubik`s Cube." (Anselm, R.)

The world of science is like a freeway in Southern, California it branches in every direction and leads scientists to every facet of life in every area there is to know about life in general. One branch of science that is really fascinating is psychology. Psychology focuses mainly on human behavior but also goes into how brain functions and works but there is not a lot of information out there on the mechanics of our brain. Studying the brain should be called the eighth wonder of the world.

When I was studying psychology in college I remember our psychology book at everything about human behavior and the many studies of it by Freud and many other well-known psychiatrists and psychologists and went into detail proving hypothesis of the many educated guesses of why people behave in certain ways and way humans sometimes act as funny as a comedian in a comedy club.

The chapter on how the mind works was probably no more than three-quarters of a page long with very little information. Think about it for a moment, how can a living thing like our brain study itself? That would be the same logic as Albert Einstein questioning himself on the answer of relativity (E=MC (squared), it just doesn`t make sense. Now scientists are stemming into the function of the brain and how cells and neurons interact with one another when it comes to outside and different stimulus and interaction between each of the brains cells.

Have you ever got up in the morning and wondered where you put your keys the night before? Or, when you go to the store you feel like a total idiot when you are leaving and forgot where you parked your car in the store`s parking lot so you wonder around one end to the other trying to find your car knowing that people are probably looking at you and laughing because you can`t find your car. For some people this is an everyday reality and scientists are studying to find out why.

The region of the brain responsible for storing and retrieving memory is called the hippocampus. Scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have come up with some answers of how the brain keeps track of the incredibly rich and complex environments that we the people (only a figure of speech) navigate on a daily basis. This report was printed in eLife on March 20.

This research also extends to not only more understanding of the brain but can also help identify neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer`s that cripple people in the tracks. Fred H. Gage who is senior author on the paper and the Vi and John Adler Chair for Research on Age-Related Neurodegenerative Disease at Salk commented on this by saying, "Everyday, we have to remember subtle differences between how things are today, versus how they were yesterday - from where we parked our car to where we left our cellphone. We found how the brain makes these distinctions, by storing separate `recordings` of each environment in the dentate gyrus." (Gage, F.)

Scientist a process of taking complex memories and converting them into pattern known as pattern separation. The dentate gyrus region of the brain helps us perform pattern separations of memories which affect many different groups of neurons when we or even any animal are in various and different environments.

When we are in different environments previous scientific studies have suggested that the same populations of neurons in the dentate gyrus are active when in those different environments but the way the cells distinguished the new surroundings was by changing how the cells sent the electrical impulses to one another.

Scientists studied this concept even further by taking laboratory mice and comparing the functioning dentate gyrus in those mice with another region of the hippocampus known as the CA1. They used a laboratory technique for tracking the activity if the neurons in the mice at multiple time points.

The laboratory mice were taken from their original chamber and placed in a novel chamber thus a different environment. While the mice were in their new environment scientists recorded which hippocampal neurons were active as the mice got familiar with the new environment they were just placed in.

After a little while some of the mice were taken out of their current environment and placed back in their original chamber to measure memory recall or some other of the mice were placed in a slightly modified chamber than their original one to measure what is known as discrimination. The active neurons were also studies to see if the ones used in the original chamber for memory were also the same ones used as the mice were placed in their new chamber or the same chamber as their original one.

Scientists found that the neurons in the mice when comparing the two scenarios that the neurons in the dentate gyrus (CA1) sub-regions functioned differently but also the same neurons in CA1 were active during the initial learning episode when the mice were trying to retrieve their memory. Also, with exposing the mice to two different environments also triggered two differently distinct groups of cells in their dentate gyrus.

The Salk researchers went on to say, "This finding supported the predictions of theoretical models that different groups of cells are activated during exposure to similar, but distinct, environments. This contrasts with the findings of previous laboratory studies, possibly because they looked at different sub-populations of neurons in the dentate gyrus." (Salk research).

So, to come to a conclusion here the Salk Scientists found that when recalling a memory such as trying to find your car in a store`s parking lot or trying to recall where you put your keys the night before does not always involve the reactivation of the same neurons in the brain that were active when you originally made a note of the original memory moment. 

Scientists also found the dentate gyrus performs pattern separation by using groups of distinct populations of cells correspond similar but non-identical memory patterns.

Yes, the brain is a very fascinating organ and when functioning at full capacity is like a well-oiled machine. So, next time you are out on your big, weekly shopping spree buying up everything in the store and using your Saturday paper clipped food coupons, as you roam out of the store and into the parking lot to try to find your car but you don`t recall where you parked; don`t roam around looking like a total idiot because you can`t remember where you parked. Just, stop for a moment, take a deep breath and slap yourself in the head a few times to stimulate your hippocampus. You might just find this technique will stimulate your cells and send your neurons in your brain firing faster that a NASA spacecraft blasting of at full power and then Wella! There`s my car! Not that I have ever tired doing this but then again I don`t forget where I park either. Your mind is a terrible thing to waste, keep exercising it and keep it as active as a mouse running in its cage on that little mousy treadmill.

           Reference

Neuroscience of Finding Your Lost Keys

(http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130321092842.htm).


 Retrieved 2013.


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