Stimulating a region of the brain can make specific events stick in the memory, scientists say. They found that by altering brain cells in the cerebral cortex, the brain could be ‘tricked’ into saving something as a memory. The findings could lead to new ways of understanding and treating memory disorders, reports journal Neuroscience.
The researchers, from the University of California Irvine, looked at how memories were formed to make their findings.
Professor Norman Weinberger then showed that by altering brain cells in the cerebral cortex, which produces the predicted specific memory, these memories could be ‘saved’.
It is the first evidence that memories can be created by direct cortical manipulation, he said.
In a study in mice, the animals were played a specific tone while their nucleus basalis, deep within their brains, was stimulated.
This released acetylcholine (ACh), a chemical involved in memory formation, and increased the number of brain cells responding to the specific tone.
The following day, the scientists played many sounds to the animals and found that their respiration spiked when they recognised the particular tone, showing that specific memory content was created by brain changes directly induced during the experiment.
These created memories have the same features as natural memories, including long-term retention.
Prof Weinberger said: ‘Disorders of learning and memory are a major issue facing many people and since we’ve found not only a way that the brain makes memories, but how to create new memories with specific content, our hope is that our research will pave the way to prevent or resolve this global issue.’