A report published on June 27 in Science reveals how the hippocampus learns and hard wires certain experiences into memory. The authors show that following a particular behavior, the hippocampus replays that behavior repeatedly until it is internalized. They also report on how the hippocampus tracks our brain’s decision-making centers to remember our past choices.
While a rat navigates a maze, for example, so-called place cells are activated and help the animal track its position. Following their journey through the maze, those same cells are reactivated in the exact same pattern. What previously happened is mentally replayed again.
The authors of the new study were curious whether this phenomenon only applies to previous encounters with a particular location or if perhaps this hippocampal replay also applies to memory more generally, including mental and nonspatial memories.
It turns out it does.
The fMRI patterns recorded in the hippocampus at rest seemed to re-create snippets of activity that occurred during the decision-making task. And they did so again and again. It is as if the brain keeps rewinding a movie scene until it can recite it by heart.
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