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Memory isn't 'lost,' just out of sync

(Little Rock) Findings published last week in Proceeding of the National Academy of Science (USA) could lead to a better understanding of how our memory changes with age, according to John Hart, Jr., M.D. associate professor in the Reynolds Department of Geriatrics of the UAMS College of Medicine and a co-author of the study. "This new approach to looking at mechanisms of memory via electrical rhythms raises a whole series of questions about how the brain operates and what happens when it doesn't work properly," he explained.

The study, conducted by Dr. Hart and co-investigators Scott Slotnick, Ph.D., Lauren Moo, M.D., Michael Kraut, M.D., Ph.D., and R. Lesser, M.D. of Johns Hopkins University, involves a novel explanation for how we recall memories for objects that surround us. The medical researchers suggest that objects occur in your memory by uniting together the different brain regions that make up various parts of the object you are trying to remember. For example, the memory of a dog includes uniting smell, sound, appearance and name.

By measuring the electrical rhythms that parts of the brain use to communicate with each other, the team of researchers showed that when the memory of a dog occurs, the thalamus, an important region of the brain that connects areas together, actually regulates the rhythms that connect brain regions. "Memory appears to be a constructive process in combining the features of the items to be remembered rather than simply remembering each object as a whole form," Dr. Slotnick explained. "The thalamus seems to direct or modulate the brain's activity so that the regions needed for memory are connected."

"It appears that the electrical signals synchronize the brain regions that store each part of an object's memory so that those areas are connected," Dr. Hart, the study's senior author, continued. "This co-activation of brain regions likely represents the memory of the object itself. It may also
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Contact: John Hart, Jr.
HartJohn@uams.edu
501-526-6576
University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences
9-May-2002


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