"Neural Cliques" Create Real-Time Memories
Apr 12, 2005 - 12:52:38 PM

By simultaneously recording the activity of hundreds of neurons in live mice, researchers have identified clusters of brain cells that act together to form and store memories.

Typically, brain activity is measured in one or a few neurons at a time. But since complex behaviors, like learning and memory, depend on the actions of large sets of neurons, it becomes necessary to determine how these cells work together to allow memories to form.

Joe Tsien and colleagues simultaneously recorded the electrical activity of up to 260 individual neurons of the mouse hippocampus, the brain structure responsible for forming memories of places and events. The researchers recorded this activity in response to three different types of startling conditions.

The authors found that each startling episode produced different brain activity patterns and identified basic coding units in the hippocampus, neural cliques, that respond to the different stimuli. These neural cliques provide a plausible, real-time neural basis of memory formation. Furthermore, activation patterns of neural cliques can generate a set of brain codes that, like the genetic code, seem to be universal across different individuals and species.

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