Study: Memories change brain structure
Rome (UPI) May 2, 2011
European researchers say they've recorded changes in the brain as it learns and sorts what it has learned in a "clearing house" of memories.
By analyzing the brains of mice at various stages of learning, Italian, Swiss and German scientists observed the brain modifying its structure and organization, making new connections while canceling some others out, Italian news agency ANSA reported Monday.
"When we have to memorize something, in a structure called the hippocampus or the cerebellum," Piergiorgio Strata, head of Italy's National Neuroscience Institute, said, "the things to be remembered are selected.
"Some of them are sent to permanent storage areas located in various parts of the brain's cortex, while others are organized differently, with inhibitory synapses coming into play."
Since some memories, such as fears, can leave a very intense permanent trace, the research could pave the way for discovering the molecular foundations of phobias and anxieties, the researchers said.
The research, published in the journal Nature, shows that "short-term memory can become long-term via a process called consolidation, which is completed over several days," Strata said.
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