Unraveling the Crystallization Process: How Repeated Practice Reshapes Memory Circuits in the Brain

Unraveling the Crystallization Process: How Repeated Practice Reshapes Memory Circuits in the Brain


A groundbreaking study led by UCLA Health and co-led by Rockefeller University has shed new light on the intricate process of memory formation in the brain, revealing that repetitive practice leads to significant changes in neural pathways.

The research, published in the prestigious journal Nature, aimed to explore the mechanisms behind the improvement of working memory, the brain’s ability to temporarily store and process information, through training.

To accomplish this, researchers employed mice in an experiment where they were required to remember and recall a specific sequence of odors over a two-week period. Neural activity was monitored throughout the cortex using a state-of-the-art, custom-built microscope, capable of imaging the activity of up to 73,000 neurons simultaneously.

The study’s findings revealed a remarkable transformation in the working memory circuits situated in the secondary motor cortex as the mice progressed through the training process. Initially, memory representations were found to be unstable, but as the mice continued to practice, these patterns began to solidify or crystallize, according to Dr. Peyman Golshani, the study’s corresponding author and a neurologist at UCLA Health.

Imagine each neuron in the brain as a distinct musical note, and the melody the brain generates while performing the task was initially changing daily but eventually became more consistent and refined as the animals continued their practice, Golshani explained.

These discoveries offer valuable insights into the reasons behind the enhanced accuracy and automation of performance following repetitive practice. Moreover, this research holds significant implications for the development of potential treatments for memory-related disorders.

The study was carried out in collaboration between Dr. Arash Bellafard, a project scientist at UCLA, and Dr. Alipasha Vaziri’s team at Rockefeller University.

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