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Wrapping a memory with an experience, capacity for recollection detected in non-human species

(Boston) -- For millennia, the process of memory and remembering has intrigued scholars and scientists. In 350 B.C., Aristotle, in his seminal treatise on the subject, described it as having two forms: familiarity and recollection. Of these, he considered recollection to be a purely human condition.

That tenet is now being challenged by researchers at Boston University.

Neurobiologists at Boston University's Center for Memory and Brain have provided the first evidence that rats use recollection when recognizing items they have recently experienced. In addition, the researchers show that rodents' capacity for recollection-like memory retrieval depends on the brain structure known as the hippocampus, the same structure believed to be involved in recollection in humans. Their findings are published in the September 9 issue of the journal Nature.

Although neuroimaging studies of hippocampal activity in normal individuals as well as studies of amnesia indicate the hippocampus could be crucial to recollection, definitive methods for assessing hippocampal activity in memory have largely remained out of reach.

The BU research team, led by Norbert Fortin, a research associate in the Laboratory of Cognitive Neurobiology at the Center for Memory and Brain, and including Howard Eichenbaum, Center director and professor and chairman of BU's Department of Psychology, and Sean Wright, a former BU undergraduate, set out to better define the role of the hippocampus in the human recollection process. They approached this in a novel way -- by investigating the activity of the hippocampus in the rat brain. Their approach also meant that they had to think outside the conventions of the discipline and ask, "Do rats have a capacity for recollection?"

In humans, signal detection techniques have been used to distinguish memory responses triggered by familiarity, the general sense that a person or thing has been previously perceived, from t
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Contact: Ann Marie Menting
amenting@bu.edu
617-358-1240
Boston University
8-Sep-2004


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