Ohio State University researchers point to where the human brain stores the time and place of memories
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published a study that uncovers brain location for memories time and place. Professor Per Sederberg from Ohio State University explains a part of the brain’s hippo-campus is responsible for holding these information: “What we’re picking up here is not the whole memory, but the basic gist – the where and when of the experience. This could be viewed as the memory hub, where we have these general, large-scale representations of our experiences.”
The team analyzed real-life memories in humans.
Study participants, nine women aged 19-26 were required to wear a smart-phone with a strap around their neck for 1 month, that took and recorded random pictures throughout the day. The app also recorded data about the pictures taken: date, location and position of participant in the moment of the capture. At the end of the 1 month period, participants were asked to view the photos and recall the experiences, while monitored by an MRI scanner.
Professor Sederberg and colleagues found that different memories lead to different patterns of brain activity. As participants were able to recall the specific memories, left anterior hippo-campus was found responsible to provide the time and place of the different presented images. “We found that time and space are very much intertwined in our representations of memories”, Sederberg said. “We found that the hippo-campus represents time and space for at least a month of memories spanning up to 30 kilometers (19 miles) in space. It is the first time we’ve been able to study memories on the scale of our lives. What we found may be just the targeting mechanism that gives us the general gist of the memory. And then there is a process that moves out through the rest of the hippo-campus and spreads out through the cortex as we relive the entirety of the memory.”
Results could help better understanding of Alzheimer’s disease
The hippo-campus is the first part of the brain that suffers damages in people with Alzheimer’s. By studying the hippo-campus memory storage, the findings could lead to better understanding of the mechanisms behind memory loss and dementia. “People with Alzheimer’s may forget experiences and people because they are not able to effectively target their old memories. They can’t retrieve memories because they can’t get the right general cue to get to that memory,” Professor Sederberg adds.
The team hopes that this is the first step of many to come in gaining a better understanding of how the human brain learns to associate memory components and further provide real help for Alzheimer’s disease affected patients.