How Memories Form, Fade and persist over time?

This research suggests that memories might fade more rapidly as we age because fewer neurons encode memory, and if any of these neurons fail, the memory is lost. The study suggests that one day, designing treatments that could boost the recruitment of a higher number of neurons to encode a memory could help prevent memory loss.

All of us suffer occasional lapses in memory. Some people experience severe neurological conditions, such as dementia, that rob them of their ability to form memories or remember recent events.

Memory is so fundamental to human behavior that any impairment to memory can severely impact our daily life. Memory loss that occurs as part of healthy aging can be a significant handicap for senior citizens.

Why is it that you can remember the name of your childhood best friend that you haven’t seen in years. And yet easily forget the name of a person you just met a moment ago? In other words, why are some memories stable over decades, while others fade within minutes?

Researchers have now determined that strong, stable memories are encoded with ‘teams’ of neurons all firing in synchrony, providing redundancy that enables these memories to last for a period. This research can help to understand how memory might be affected after brain damage, such as by strokes or dementia diseases.

Imagine you have a long and complicated story to tell. You tell a story, to five of your friends. The next time you meet them to re-tell the story, it helps if each of the friends fills in any gaps that an individual had forgotten. Additionally, each time you re-tell the story, you could bring new friends to learn and therefore help preserve it and strengthen the memory. Analogously, your neurons help each other out to encode memories that will persist over time.

Memory is so fundamental to human behavior that any impairment to memory can severely impact our daily life. Memory loss that occurs as part of healthy aging can be a significant handicap for senior citizens. Memory loss caused by several diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, can have devastating effects, interfere with the most basic routines, including recognizing relatives or remembering the way back home. This work suggests that memories might fade more rapidly as we age because fewer neurons encode memory, and if any of these neurons fail, the memory is lost. The study suggests that one day, designing treatments that could boost the recruitment of a higher number of neurons to encode a memory could help prevent memory loss.

It’s been known for years that people that the more you practice an action, the better chance that you will remember it later. Reachers now think it’s likely, because the more you practice activity, the higher the number of neurons that are encoding the action. The conventional theories about memory storage postulate that making the memory more stable requires the strengthening of the connections to an individual neuron. These study results suggest that increasing the number of neurons that encode the same memory enables the memory to persist for longer.”

Storing of memories

You may remember reading this exact sentence in a few minutes, but not in a few days. That’s because our brains handle both long-term memory and short-term memory, also called working memory, which only lasts for just one minute.

Short-term memory is technically working memory. This refers more to the whole theoretical framework of structures and processes used for the temporary storage and manipulation of information, of which short-term memory is just one component.

Whereas, Long-term memory can store information over a long period. The capacity for long term memory is unlimited since it can be stored one minute ago or one year ago. The stored information can still be retrievable at any time. Although scientists believe that part of long term memory is permanent while others will eventually weaken over time.

Conclusions

The findings could have promising implications for diseases that involve a neurogenesis deficit — in other words, a lack of new brain cells being born — which happens in dementia cases, which is an umbrella term for a range of progressive conditions that affect the brain.

Acknowledgments & References

Co-author Larry Squire, professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego. Nicolas Y. Masse, Guangyu R. Yang, H. Francis Song, Xiao-Jing Wang & David J. Freedman.

 

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