Scientists Watch a Memory Form in a Living Brain
Published in Memory.
While watching a fearful memory take shape in the brain of a living fish, neuroscientists see an unexpected level of rewiring occur in the synaptic connections.
Imagine that while you are enjoying your morning bowl of Cheerios, a spider drops from the ceiling and plops into the milk. Years later, you still can’t get near a bowl of cereal without feeling overcome with disgust.
Researchers have now directly observed what happens inside a brain learning that kind of emotionally charged response. In a new study published in January in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team at the University of Southern California was able to visualize memories forming in the brains of laboratory fish, imaging them under the microscope as they bloomed in beautiful fluorescent greens. From earlier work, they had expected the brain to encode the memory by slightly tweaking its neural architecture. Instead, the researchers were surprised to find a major overhaul in the connections.