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Neuronal activity gives clues to working memory

NEW YORK (June 6, 2007) -- A newly discovered interplay of cells in one of the brain's memory centers sheds light on how you recall your grocery list, where you laid your keys, and a host of important but fleeting daily tasks.

Scientists at Weill Cornell Medical College say their experiments with common goldfish are uncovering the secrets of a form of short-term recall known as "working memory."

"We've now identified a mechanism that can organize the activity of groups of cells involved in this important form of recall," says lead researcher Dr. Emre Aksay, assistant professor of computational neuroscience in the HRH Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud Institute for Computational Biomedicine at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City.

"Furthermore, because deficits in working memory are often a precursor of schizophrenia, drugs that target this mechanism might someday help fight that debilitating disease," he says.

The findings have been published in Nature Neuroscience.

Humans rely on their working memory every day to keep track of faces and names, tasks at school or in the workplace, and other important bits of information. "This process is distinct, neurologically speaking, from the storage and retrieval of longer-term memories," explains Dr. Aksay, who is also assistant professor of physiology and biophysics at Weill Cornell.

Experts in labs around the world have developed theories as to how this process works. "Its basis lies in the ability of specific neurons to maintain a level of activity in the absence of input -- a persistent firing rate -- that's finely coordinated across related groups of cells," Dr. Aksay says.

But how do these brain cells communicate which each other to coordinate this activity"

To find out, Dr. Aksay, along with colleagues Dr. David Tank of Princeton University, and Dr. Mark Goldman of Wellesley College, turned to the common goldfi
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Contact: Andrew Klein
ank2017@med.cornell.edu
212-821-0560
New York- Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center/Weill Cornell Medical College
6-Jun-2007


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