A schematic diagram depicting the recall of a
sequence of memory items when the network
containing the pool of memory items is
triggered by a stimulus.
Credit: 2012 A*STAR Institute for
Infocomm Research

How connections in the brain must change to form memories could help to develop artificial cognitive computers
November 7, 2012 in Neuroscience

Exactly how memories are stored and accessed in the brain is unclear. Neuroscientists, however, do know that a primitive structure buried in the center of the brain, called the hippocampus, is a pivotal region of memory formation. Here, changes in the strengths of connections between neurons, which are called synapses, are the basis for memory formation. Networks of neurons linking up in the hippocampus are likely to encode specific memories.

Since direct tests cannot be performed in the brain, experimental evidence for this process of memory formation is difficult to obtain but mathematical and computational models can provide insight. To this end, Eng Yeow Cheu and co-workers at the A*STAR Institute for Infocomm Research, Singapore, have developed a model that sheds light on the exact synaptic conditions required in memory formation.

Their work builds on a previously proposed model of auto-associative memory, a process whereby a memory is retrieved or completed after partial activation of its constituent neural network. The earlier model proposed that neural networks encoding short-term memories are activated at specific points during oscillations of brain activity. Changes in the strengths of synapses, and therefore the abilities of neurons in the network to activate each other, lead to an auto-associative long-term memory.

Read more: How connections in the brain must change to form memories could help to develop artificial cognitive computers — Medical Xpress.

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