A study identifies a new way in which the human brain marks time.


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With a little help from Irvine neurobiologists at the University of California, HBO's Irvine neurobiologists discovered a key component of how the human brain brands time.

By using high-powered functional magnetic resonance in college students watching the popular television show, they were able to capture the processes by which the brain stores information related to when events happen or what is known as temporary memory. The study appears in Nature neuroscience.

The researchers identified a new network of brain regions involved in these processes, confirming in humans the results of studies with mice that were reported last summer by Nobel Prize winner Edvard Moser and his colleagues, who located nerve cells in them. areas that give each moment a distinctive signature. An article by News & Views in Nature neuroscience highlights how these findings fit

Michael Ybada, director of the Center for Neurobiology of Learning and Memory of the UCI and lead author of the study, said that research can better understand dementia, since these regions of temporary memory are the first to experience deficits related to age and They also show some of the first pathological features of Alzheimer's disease, especially entanglements.

"It remains to be seen if these alterations have consequences for memory related to time, is something that we are currently testing," he added.

Brain images in real time

In the ICU study, the participants sat with their heads inside a high-resolution fMRI scanner while they watched the television program and then watched images of the episode, one at a time.

The researchers found that when subjects had more precise answers to questions about when certain events occurred, they activated a brain network that involved the lateral entorhinal cortex and the perirhinal cortex. The team had previously shown that these regions, which surround the hippocampus, are badociated with memories of objects or elements, but not with their spatial location. Until now, little was known about how this network could process and store information over time.

"The field of neuroscience has largely focused on understanding how we encode and store information about space, but time has always been a mystery," said Ybada, professor of neurobiology and behavior. "This study and the Moser team's study represent the first cross-species evidence for a potential role of the lateral entorhinal cortex in storing and retrieving information about when experiences occur."

"Space and time have always been closely linked, and the common wisdom in our field was that the mechanisms involved in one probably also supported the other," added Maria Montchal, a graduate student in Ybada's laboratory who led the research. "But our results suggest otherwise."

Memory test related to time

Ybada said it's worth noting that his group published another report last year in Neuron that shows that lateral entorhinal cortex is dysfunctional in older adults with lower than average memory performance. That study did not test memory for time, but discrimination by memory of similar objects.

Most studies that examine time in the lab use static objects on a computer screen, Ybada said, but they tell very little about how the brain processes information in the real world. This is why the UCI study used "Curb Your Enthusiasm", a situational comedy that reflects real life, as it involves people, scenes, dialogues, humor and narrative.

"We chose this particular program because we thought it contained related, attractive and interesting events," he said. "We also wanted one without a hint of laughter." Interestingly, although the program is very funny for some of us, it does not seem to cause much laughter among the college students we examined, which was excellent for us, since we needed to keep them. Their heads inside the scanner. "

High resolution brain images provide clues about memory loss in older adults

More information:
Matthew L. Shapiro, time is just a memory, Nature neuroscience (2019). DOI: 10.1038 / s41593-018-0331-x

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University of California, Irvine

A study identifies a new way in which the human brain marks the time (2019, January 15)
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