LiveScience.com is reporting today that a new study by neuroscientists at the University of California, Irvine has confirmed the long held belief that different pieces of a single memory are stored in separate locations in the brain. This is the first time solid evidence has been collected verifying that what we recognize as a single experience is actually saved in our brains as multiple memory fragments. The researchers believe their work will lead to insights into understanding and ultimately treating neurological disorders that affect memory storage, retention, and recall.
The research itself was performed on rats, although due to the neurological similarities between rats and humans, the scientists believe their results are applicable to the human brain as well. Each rat was subjected to an electric shock, and while the scientists induced the rat to recall this memory a few days later, they observed the rats’ brains to determine which areas showed neural activity. They found that the hippocampus, a seahorse shaped structure in the temporal lobe and one of the oldest structures in mammalian brains, processed the context of the memory. The anterior cingulate cortex, located in the middle of the cortex, managed the storage of the memory itself. The amygdala, an almond-shaped structure deep within the medial temporal lobe believed to play a key role in emotions, acted as a manager of sorts, combining and influencing the storage and recall of both the memory and its context.
The study was published in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.