AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 26, Number 4, 2017

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The Brain Uses Backward Instant Replays to Remember Important Travel Routes

Experiments with food show how rats form some memories

You’re shipwrecked on a desert island. You wander from your base camp in desperation, searching for water. Suddenly, a stream appears. The water is fresh and clear, the best you’ve ever tasted. There’s just one problem: There’s no trace of how you got there, and you’re not sure you can find it again next time. Now, Johns Hopkins neuroscientists believe they have figured out how some mammals’ brains – in this case, rats – solve such navigational problems. If there’s a “reward” at the end of the trip, like the chocolatey drink used in their study, specialized neurons in the hippocampus of the brain “replay” the route taken to get it, but backward. And the greater the reward, the more often the rats’ brains replay it. To read more, click here.

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