A recent discovery by researchers at the University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada, regarding the impact of past experiences on memory could have implications for the development of new therapies for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
In a mouse model, Boyer Winters, PhD, and colleagues set out to examine the idea that past experience with an object alters the brain circuitry responsible for object recognition. However, others posit that brain integrates information from the senses and stores it in a separate place entirely, and then taps into that area to aid object recognition.
To test this theory, the team allowed rats to briefly explore an object’s tactile and visual characteristics. The next day, the researchers showed the object to the same animals, and compared their responses to rats seeing the object for the first time.
The rodents that explored objects for the first time appeared to use multiple specialized brain regions to recognize the object, while the rats with previous exposure used another part of their brains to perform the same task, the researchers reported in the Journal of Neuroscience.
“Knowing what an object looks like enables them to assimilate information in a way that doesn’t happen when there is no pre-exposure,” Winters said in a statement. “Our study suggests there is an assigned region of the brain for memory based on previous experience with objects.”
He added that the result from the study could be transformed into treatments for people with dementia and other brain disorders who have trouble recalling highly recognizable people or objects.
Winters BD, et al. The Dynamic Multisensory Engram: Neural Circuitry Underlying Crossmodal Object Recognition in Rats Changes with the Nature of Object Experience. J Neurosci. 2016; doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3043-15.2016.