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Study: Brain Sorts, Stores Memories

Researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience and Centre for Neural Computation have published new findings on how the brain is able to store many separate but similar events, in the Dec. 8 issue of PNAS.

 The brain has an enormous capacity to store memories and to keep memories from getting mixed up in part because of how these memories are stored in the hippocampus, researchers from NTNU’s Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience have shown. Researchers have long wondered if there is an upper limit to the capacity to store memories.

 “We investigated whether these memories overlapped across some rooms, but all of the memories were completely independent,” Alme said. “This indicates that the brain has an enormous capacity for storage. The ability to create a unique memory or map for every locale explains how we manage to distinguish between very similar memories and how the brain prevents us from mixing up events.”

Researchers developed their conclusions after studying rats finding their way through different rooms of a structure, looking for crumbs. Researchers recorded brain activity in certain cells to determine how the rats were able to store mental maps to the different rooms.