Skip to content

Scientists differentiate recognition and location physiology in the brain.

Scientists have discerned recognition and location in a new study. Researchers at University of California have induced both of these brain states permanently in rats and from what is observed perhaps derive clues about why strokes and Alzheimer’s disease can destroy a person’s sense of direction.  The findings are published in the journal Cell Reports.

Grid cells and other specialized nerve cells in the brain, known as ‘place cells,’ comprise the brain’s inner GPS, the discovery of which earned British-American and Norwegian scientists this year’s Nobel Prize for medicine.

In research that builds upon the Nobel Prize-winning science, the researchers have developed a micro-surgical procedure that makes it possible to remove the area of the rat’s brain that contains grid cells and show what happens to this hard-wired navigational system when these grid cells are wiped out.

One effect, not surprisingly, is that the rats become very poor at tasks requiring internal map-making skills, such as remembering the location of a resting platform in a water maze test.

Their loss of spatial memory formation was not a surprise.  It’s what would be expected based on the physiological characteristics of that area of the brain, which is known as the entorhinal cortex and is the first brain region to break down in Alzheimer’s disease.  But the rats retained a host of other memory and navigation-related skills that scientists had previously speculated would be destroyed without grid cells.

The surprise is the discovery of the type of memory formation that was not disrupted by the removal of the grid cell area.

Specifically, UC San Diego scientists were able to show that even without grid cells rats could still mark spatial changes in their environment. They could, for example, notice when an object in a familiar environment was moved a few inches and they could recognize objects, such as a coffee mug or flower vase, and remember later that they had seen these objects before.

Electrical recordings of signals transmitted from the hippocampus suggested that the animals had developed place cells, cells that are believed to convey a sense of location, and that these cells were firing when an animal passed through a familiar place.

The team state that the animal’s place cells were less precise and less stable, but they were present and active.  That was a surprise because the researchers had removed the spatially modulated grid-cell input to these neurons.

The axons of grid cells project into the hippocampus and it has been assumed that without this relay of information from the entorhinal cortex to the hippocampus, place cells would be unable to develop.  This is not the case.

The work shows a crisp division of labour within memory circuits of the brain.  Removing the grid-cell network removes memory for places but leaves completely intact a whole host of other important memory abilities like recognition memory and memory of fearful events.

Source:  UC San Diego Health System

 

The rat with the MEC lesion (right) shows a poor ability to remember the location of the resting platform (red dot).  Credit: UC San Diego School of Medicine.
The rat with the MEC lesion (right) shows a poor ability to remember the location of the resting platform (red dot). Credit: UC San Diego School of Medicine.

Healthinnovations View All

Michelle Petersen is the founder of Healthinnovations, having worked in the health and science industry for over 21 years, which includes tenure within the NHS and Oxford University. Healthinnovations is a publication that has reported on, influenced, and researched current and future innovations in health for the past decade.

Michelle has been picked up as an expert writer for Informa publisher’s Clinical Trials community, as well as being listed as a blog source by the world’s leading medical journals, including the acclaimed Nature-Springer journal series.

Healthinnovations is currently indexed by the trusted Altmetric and PlumX metrics systems, respectively, as a blog source for published research globally. Healthinnovations is also featured in the world-renowned BioPortfolio, BioPortfolio.com, the life science, pharmaceutical and healthcare portal.

Most recently the Texas A&M University covered The Top 10 Healthinnovations series on their site with distinguished Professor Stephen Maren calling the inclusion of himself and his team on the list a reflection of “the hard work and dedication of my students and trainees”.

Michelle Petersen’s copy was used in the highly successful marketing campaign for the mega-hit film ‘Jumanji: The Next Level, starring Jack Black, Karen Gilian, Kevin Hart and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. Michelle Petersen’s copywriting was part of the film’s coverage by the Republic TV network. Republic TV is the most-watched English language TV channel in India since its inception in 2017.

An avid campaigner in the fight against child sex abuse and trafficking, Michelle is a passionate humanist striving for a better quality of life for all humans by helping to provide traction for new technologies and techniques within healthcare.

2 thoughts on “Scientists differentiate recognition and location physiology in the brain. Leave a comment

  1. Could it be okay to write several of this on my small web website only incorporate a 1 way link to the site?

Leave a Reply

Translate »