Where The Brain Stores A Familiar Face

Have we met somewhere before? Let me check the memories inside my ventral hippocampus.

AsianScientist (Oct. 5, 2016) – Researchers from the RIKEN-Massachusetts Institute of Technology Center for Neural Circuit Genetics in Japan have pinpointed where social memories are located in the brains of mice. Their findings were published in Science.

Social neuroscience has been gaining recognition as an important research field, especially as it relates to abnormal social behavior. Although remembering social interactions is essential for establishing relationships, whether these types of memories are stored separately from other memories was not clear until now.

Building on their previous work, the researchers took advantage of rodents’ natural tendencies to ‘forget’ other mice within 24 hours to determine the site of social memories.

When neurons storing the memory of a familiar mouse were reactivated with light during the social discrimination task more than 24 hours after the first meeting, mice suddenly lost interest in the familiar mouse, acting just as they did only 30 minutes after the initial meeting. This shows that the memories still existed, but that for some reason, the familiar mouse could no longer trigger their retrieval after a certain amount of time has passed.

The study shows that memories of social encounters are stored in a specific brain circuit that includes the ventral hippocampus, and that they remain in the brain even after mice can no longer retrieve them naturally.

RIKEN-MIT Center Director Dr. Susumu Tonegawa said, “Our findings provide the fundamental brain mechanisms underlying the ability to recognize individuals. Because some brain disorders like autism involve impairment in social interactions, further research along this line can contribute to development of new therapies for these disorders.”

Meanwhile, lead author and MIT postdoctoral fellow Dr. Teruhiro Okuyama said, “The next step is to investigate the nature of the link between social memory and autism.”

The article can be found at: Okuyama et al. (2016) Ventral CA1 Neurons Store Social Memory.


Source: RIKEN.
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