(ORDO NEWS) — Neuroscientists at Stanford University and the Wu Tsai Institute of Neurology filmed in real time the formation of mouse motor memory in experiments on mice.
Scientists were able to see how new stimuli are stored in memory and how the recall process occurs. This is an important step towards new methods of recovery in Parkinson’s disease, when motor memory is affected.
Mouse motor memory is similar to human motor memory. On the model you can see what you will not see in the human brain. And something about the human brain to understand
Why is it that someone who hasn’t ridden a bike in decades is likely to get on and ride without any problems, but probably not be able to remember more than one or two names of classmates from elementary school?
This may be because physical skills, or motor memories, are encoded differently in our brains than our memories of names or facts.
A new study by neuroscientists reveals exactly how motor memories are formed and why they are so persistent. This can help identify the underlying causes of movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and even suggest possible treatments.
“Motor memory is unique,” said Jun Ding, assistant professor of neurosurgery and neurology at the Wu Cai Institute of Neurosciences. Musicians have been involved in some Alzheimer’s studies.
They couldn’t remember their families, but they could still play beautiful music. Clearly, there is a huge difference in how motor memories are formed.”
Memories are thought to be encoded in the brain as active networks of hundreds or thousands of neurons, sometimes distributed to distant regions of the brain.
This concept is sometimes called the memory engram. It has been around for more than a century, but it has proven extremely difficult to pinpoint exactly what an engram is and how it is encoded.
Previous research has shown that certain forms of learning activate certain neurons, and those same neurons are activated when learned memories are recalled. However, it remained unknown whether memory engrams existed in motor skill training.
“When you first learn to throw a basketball, you use a very different set of neurons each time you throw a ball, but as you practice, you learn to use a more advanced set that repeats from try to try,” said one of study authors Richard Roth of Stanford University.
In their new study, the scientists taught mice to use their paws to reach yummy balls through a small slit.
Using optogenetics techniques, the researchers were able to isolate certain neurons in the motor cortex – the area responsible for controlling movement – that were active during learning.
The researchers tagged these potential engrams with a fluorescent marker to see if they would be active when recalled.
When the researchers tested the animals’ memory of this new skill a few weeks later, they found that those mice that still remembered the learned skill showed increased activity in the same neurons that were first identified during the learning period. So the researchers observed the formation of memory engrams.
The researchers used two-photon microscopy to observe living circuits of neurons in real time. They observed how “engram neurons” reprogram themselves as the mice learned.
Researchers say that by repeating learned skills, we continually reinforce motor engrams. This is what is meant by the term “muscle memory” a highly redundant network of motor engrams used so frequently that the skill associated with it seems automatic. Even walking is a motor skill that we all once learned and, in principle, can be forgotten.
If Parkinson’s disease is the result of blocked motor memory, then patients can improve their motor abilities simply by practicing and strengthening motor skills.
But if Parkinson’s disease destroys motor engrams and prevents the creation of new ones, then an entirely different approach must be used for effective treatment. In this case, repetition is useless.
“Our next goal is to understand what happens in movement disorders like Parkinson’s,” Dean said.
“Obviously, we are still far from a cure, but understanding how motor skills are formed is critical if we are to understand why they are impaired by the disease.”
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