So scientists have announced yet another brain memory study on mice, and this one purports to give us clues about how the brain remembers boring, repetitive stuff like where we parked our cars and left our eyeglasses. The research team from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and the Scripps Research Institute published their results yesterday in the open access journal eLife.
I hear you out there. Heck, I can raise my hand and give them the answer right now. The brain doesn’t remember. That’s why we spend so much time wandering around parking lots and tearing the house apart in a mad search for eyeglasses, keys, and entire missing wallets.
However, the mice are apparently a step ahead. Their fuzzy little brains do have a mechanism for representing “similar but not identical inputs,” as the scientists described those occasions when you have to remember something that’s almost but not quite just like something you’ve done a thousand times.
Fred H. Gage, senior author of the study, said that the team discovered that each individual memory was stored separately in the dentate gyrus, part of the hippocampus, the region of the brain that controls memory. In other words, a different bunch of cells stores a different memory each time you decide to park your car in a different place in the parking lot.
While I have no reason to question their work as far as it goes, I feel like it raises another question. If all of these memories are stored separately, why do those of us with mere human brains often just remember a hazy, general idea of where we left our glasses — and, half the time, we’re morally convinced we left them somewhere we didn’t?
I feel like the mice still have some explaining to do. The brain memory study is just the beginning.
[photo lab rat courtesy Janet Stephens and Wikipedia Commons]