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Storage of a single memory is distributed across many regions of the brain

07 June 2022

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It’s a good idea to keep a backup copy of any important documents somewhere separate, just in case anything happens to the original. Our clever brains do something similar with memories, storing them across a wide connected complex spanning different brain regions, rather than locking them all away in one single spot. This long-hypothesised ‘unified engram complex’ has been confirmed in a new study that analysed 247 brain regions in mice. The researchers visualised brain activity during memory encoding (top) and recall (bottom), and saw activity and clear overlap in more regions than previously thought. Further experiments successfully triggered memories by stimulating different areas of the complex, but confirmed that recall was stronger when multiple regions were involved at once. This distribution may allow memory recall even if some areas are damaged or diseased, which could suggest new targets for clinical approaches to tackle memory loss.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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