A Certain Type of Cells that Control Memory Flow in the Brain

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All your life, you must be traveling to several places. But, what makes your brain remember only a few of them? Ever wondered? Scientists at Columbia University find that a certain type of cells in our brain decide which places are important. Thus, helping us remember the route only to these locations.

As a result, the scientists feel that this breakthrough could also help them find answers to psychiatric disease like schizophrenia and autism. If true, the discovery will help the pharmaceutical industry develop new drugs for these diseases.

A Type of Inhibitory Neurons Responsible for this Action

“Memories are fluid,” hence it has been difficult for scientists to understand how brain cells laydown them. Hippocampus in the brain is responsible for learning and memory functions. Therefore, scientists decided to focus on CA1- an area that encodes location of an animal. This is the finding for which Nobel Prize was awarded in 2014.

In 2016, the researchers found that the activity of neurons shot up when the mice looked for something important, say water. There are two types of neurons- excitatory and inhibitory. This study’s focus was on a type of inhibitory neuron in CA1 called vasoactive intestinal polypeptide-expressing (VIP cells).

To understand what triggers this spike in neural activity, scientists conducted two experiments. As a result, the activity of VIP cells shot up in both experiments. In the first test, the mice ran aimlessly looking to find something. Further, in the second experiment, it aimed at finding a certain specific location.

As a result of the research, scientists say that advanced studies could help understand the reason behind schizophrenia and autism. Disruptions in maintaining memory flow in the brain characterizes these diseases.

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