AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 26, Number 2, 2017

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TSRI Scientists Take Step Toward Mapping How the Brain Stores Memories

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A new study led by scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) sheds light on how the brain stores memories. The research is the first to demonstrate that the same brain region can both motivate a learned behavior and suppress that same behavior. “We behave the way we do in a specific situation because we have learned an association – a memory – tying an environmental cue to a behavior,” said Nobuyoshi Suto, TSRI associate professor of Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience, who co-led the study with TSRI professor Friedbert Weiss and Bruce Hope, a principal investigator at the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Drug Abuse. “This study provides causal evidence that one brain region can store different memories.” Scientists know that our memories are stored in specific areas of the brain, but there has been some debate over whether a single brain regional can store different memories that control opposing behavior. For example, can the same region store the meanings of red and green traffic lights – the memories that make a driver stop a car at a red light, then hit the gas pedal at a green light? Suto’s research focuses specifically on the brain circuits that control motivation. In the new study, he and his colleagues set out to examine how rats learn to press levers to get sugar water – and where they store those motivational memories. 

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