Researchers show that memories reside in specific brain cells

Our fond or fearful memories — that first kiss or a bump in the night — leave memory traces that we may conjure up in the remembrance of things past, complete with time, place and all the sensations of the experience. Neuroscientists call these traces memory engrams.

But are engrams conceptual, or are they a physical network of neurons in the brain? In a new MIT study, researchers used optogenetics to show that memories really do reside in very specific brain cells, and that simply activating a tiny fraction of brain cells can recall an entire memory — explaining, for example, how Marcel Proust could recapitulate his childhood from the aroma of a once-beloved madeleine cookie.

“We demonstrate that behavior based on high-level cognition, such as the expression of a specific memory, can be generated in a mammal by highly specific physical activation of a specific small subpopulation of brain cells, in this case by light,” says Susumu Tonegawa, the Picower Professor of Biology and Neuroscience at MIT and lead author of the study reported online today in the journal Nature. “This is the rigorously designed 21st-century test of Canadian neurosurgeon Wilder Penfield’s early-1900s accidental observation suggesting that mind is based on matterResearchers show that memories reside in specific brain cells

via Researchers show that memories reside in specific brain cells – MIT News Office.

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2 thoughts on “Researchers show that memories reside in specific brain cells

  1. socalgalpd

    Wonder if its possible to determine whether these are the same specific brain cells affected by Alzheimers, dementia, aging etc? How many areas and in which specific areas of the brain are they located? Does disabling specific cells in one area effect specific cells in other areas?
    Would love to learn more . . . .

  2. How does experience change brain cells so that we (and rats and pigeons) can recall information? Our brains seem to be more or less programmable through experience. What are the chemical switches that are placed in states and which also retain those states? How are the neurons written to and how are they read? Understanding the mind is bound to be one of the most challenging frontiers of the next century.

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