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Mapping Memory in the Brain

Eric R. Kandel, Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, probes into the mind to demonstrate how it is much more complex than just a series of processes carried out by the brain. The brain produces our every emotional, intellectual and athletic act. It allows us to acquire new facts and skills, and to remember them for as long as a lifetime. Memory exists in two major forms, each located in different brain regions. Explicit memory is for people, places, and objects. In contrast, implicit memory serves perceptual and motor skills. In concert, these two memory systems help make us who we are.


Low-carb diets can affect dieters' cognition skills

A new study from the psychology department at Tufts University shows that when dieters eliminate carbohydrates from their meals, they performed more poorly on memory-based tasks than when they reduce calories, but maintain carbohydrates. When carbohydrates were reintroduced, cognition skills returned to normal."This study demonstrates that the food you eat can have an immediate impact on cognitive behavior," explains Holly A. Taylor, professor of psychology at Tufts and corresponding author of the study. "The popular low-carb, no-carb diets have the strongest potential for negative impact on thinking and cognition."

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Decreased levels of binding gene affect memory and behavior

Reducing the activity of a gene called FKBP12 in the brains of mice affected neuron-to-neuron communication (synapse) and increased both fearful memory and obsessive behavior, indicating the gene could provide a target for drugs to treat diseases such as autism spectrum disorder, obsessive-compulsive disease and others, said researchers from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston in a report in the current issue of the journal Neuron. The protein FKBP12 regulates several important cell signaling pathways, and decreasing its activity enhances long-term potentiation in the hippocampus, said Dr. Susan Hamilton, chair of molecular physiology and biophysics at BCM and a senior author of the report. (Long-term potentiation means the enhancement of the synapse or communication between neurons.) It accomplishes this by fine-tuning a particular pathway called mTOR signaling (mammalian target of rapamycin). The mice in whose brains the activity of the gene was reduced had longer memories and were more likely to exhibit repetitive behaviors than normal mice.

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Low levels of good cholesterol linked to memory loss, dementia risk

Low levels of good cholesterol are associated with diminished memory by age 60. Researchers encourage physicians to monitor levels of good cholesterol.

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Mitochondria defects linked to social behavior and spatial memory

Respiration deficiencies in mitochondria, the cell’s powerhouses, are associated with changed social behavior and spatial memory in laboratory mice, report scientists at the American Society for Cell Biology 47th Annual Meeting.

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New research could help reverse the biological clock for dementia patients

Medical experts in the North-East believe they could have found the key to turning back the brain’s biological clock and reverse the effects of dementia and memory loss.

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Improved estrogen reception may sharpen fuzzy memory

Finding ways to boost the brain's estrogen receptors may be an alternative to adding estrogen to the body in efforts to improve cognition in postmenopausal women and younger women with low estrogen levels, according to neuroscientists at the University of Florida's McKnight Brain Institute.

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Scientists discover way to reverse loss of memory

Scientists performing experimental brain surgery on a man aged 50 have stumbled across a mechanism that could unlock how memory works.

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High blood sugar can hamper memory

In the journal Diabetes a research team from Umeå University and Stockholm University in Sweden presents findings that indicate that elevated levels of blood sugar may have a negative impact on the memory function. It was previously known that patients with diabetes run a higher risk of developing various forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. This increased risk may be caused by a combination of the risk factors for cardiovascular disorders that this patient group has, including high blood pressure, high blood fats, heightened inflammatory activity, and high blood sugar. Previously it was not know whether blood sugar alone could have a negative effect in people without diabetes, and it has also been unclear what part of the brain might be the most sensitive to high blood sugar levels. By analyzing 411 healthy people who took part in both Västerbotten Health Examinations and the Betula Project, the research team has been able to established that elevated blood sugar levels probably affect a specific part of the brain, the hippocampus, and especially in women. The hippocampus is a part of the brain that stores memories, and it is often the first part of the brain to be impacted with the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. The study provides key information that can serve as a basis for further studies designed to examine how elevated blood sugar can affect the memory.

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Daytime sleep improves memory consolidation

A 90 minute daytime nap helps speed up the process of long-term memory consolidation, a recent study conducted at the Center for Brain and Behavior Research at the University of Haifa found.

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Unlocking the Mysteries of Memory

Researchers led by Prof. Itzhak Fried, a neurosurgeon at Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine, are proving scientifically what scientists have always suspected -- that the neurons excited during an experience are the same as those excited when we remember that experience. This finding, reported in the prestigious journal Science in October, gives researchers a clearer picture of how memory recall works and has important implications for understanding dementias such as Alzheimer's, in which fragments of the memory puzzle seem to disintegrate over time.

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Stress-related disorders affect brain's processing of memory

Researchers using functional MRI (fMRI) have determined that the circuitry in the area of the brain responsible for suppressing memory is dysfunctional in patients suffering from stress-related psychiatric disorders. Results of the study will be presented today at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA). "For patients with major depression and other stress-related disorders, traumatic memories are a source of anxiety," said Nivedita Agarwal, M.D., radiology resident at the University of Udine in Italy, where the study is being conducted, and research fellow at the Brain Imaging Center of McLean Hospital, Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School in Boston. "Because traumatic memories are not adequately suppressed by the brain, they continue to interfere with the patient's life." Dr. Agarwal and colleagues used brain fMRI to explore alterations in the neural circuitry that links the prefrontal cortex to the hippocampus, while study participants performed a memory task. Participants included 11 patients with major depression, 13 with generalized anxiety disorder, nine with panic attack disorders, five with borderline personality disorder and 21 healthy individuals. All patients reported suffering varying degrees of stressful traumatic events, such as sexual or physical abuse, difficult relationships or "mobbing" – a type of bullying or harassment – at some point in their lives.

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