Your Brain Might Be More Like a Hard Drive Than You Ever Suspected

Your Brain Might Be More Like a Hard Drive Than You Ever Suspected

This study has found that your brain makes new memories by shrinking older ones.

New research has discovered that, just like your computer, when it’s near capacity your brain needs to decrease (or in the computer’s case, get rid of) certain files or memories in order to make space for new ones.

A team made up of researchers from the Salk Institute, the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Otago, in New Zealand made the discovery studying the brains of rodents.

Apparently, creating memories is all about balance.

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“It’s an intuitive idea that as we learn something new, synapses strengthen and get bigger,” said professor Terrence Sejnowski, head of the Salk’s Computational Neurobiology Laboratory. “This shows (something different): some get stronger, some get weaker.”

To come to their findings, researchers stimulated a region in the rodents’ brains that’s important for memory. This was the hippocampus. In doing so, they mimicked the effect that a new experience would have on this brain region in the animals.

It was found that, while some synapses grew bigger in response to the new information, others actually shrank. Kind of like an articulating worm.

What good is this knowledge? Researchers are hoping the work will help shed light on a pathway towards further studies. More work needs to be done around what happens in the brain when it can no longer form new memories properly, as is the case in patients with dementia.

The study appeared in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on February 20, 2018. For more information on memories and how to keep them, click here.

Photo credits: g-stockstudio/

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