Sep 9, 2017

Scientists discover a new way the brain forms memories

Hippocampal neuron in culture. Photo: Shelley Halpain / UC San Diego

A team of scientists announced Thursday they have discovered a new way the brain learns and stores information that may explain why people remember one-time events or new places.

What's new: For almost a half-century scientists have understood memories as being formed by neural connections that are strengthened by short repetitive stimulations, called the Hebbian rule. In the new study, researchers found a new method of learning (called BTSP) where memories can form in part of the brain over a longer time (seconds vs milliseconds) and without repetition.

Why this is important: It offers scientists a new way of looking at memory and could eventually inform our understanding of memory disorders. Julija Krupic, who published a perspective on this study in Science, wrote: "The authors have identified an intriguing new phenomenon...which eventually will tell us how we learn and remember new places and events that happen there."

What it means: Both processes likely play a part in memory formation. "Our study expands the repertoire of tools that neurons use to store information, and provides a mechanism for previously unexplained single trial learning of long event sequences," study co-author Aaron Milstein told Axios.

Why it makes sense: "Learning something new (e.g., a list of words) very often requires going over the material to be learned multiple times, and the more one repeats the material the better the learning and the subsequent memory... Nevertheless, and it is everyone's common experience, one is also able to form long-lasting memories with a single experience (e.g., remembering the name of a person just met or the address of a new restaurant)," Gianluigi Mongillo, of the French National Centre for Scientific Research who was not part of this study, told Axios.

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Warren sees bump in national poll following Nevada debate

Photo by David Becker/Getty Images.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren surged to 19% and second place in a CBS News/YouGov national poll released Sunday, trailing front-runner Sen. Bernie Sanders (28%) but edging out Joe Biden (17%) and Michael Bloomberg (13%).

Why it matters: The poll notes that only 42% of Democratic primary voters have made up their minds. While Warren underperformed in the first three states, her strong debate performance in Nevada last week may have given her campaign new life.

Pence aide says intel report of Russia helping Trump is "false information"

Marc Short. Screenshot: Fox News

Marc Short, chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, claimed on "Fox News Sunday" that the White House has not received intelligence that Russia is seeking to help President Trump win re-election, calling it "false information" that has been selectively leaked by Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee.

The big picture: Short and national security adviser Robert O'Brien both dismissed reports published in the Washington Post and New York Times last week about a briefing provided by top election security official Shelby Pierson, an aide to outgoing acting director of national intelligence Joseph Maguire.

Bernie's juggernaut

Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks in San Antonio last night with his wife, Jane. Photo: Eric Gay/AP

Sen. Bernie Sanders won so big in the Nevada caucuses that Democrats are hard-pressed to sketch a way he's not their nominee.

Driving the news: With 60% of precincts counted (slow, but better than Iowa!), Sanders is running away with 46% of delegates — crushing Joe Biden's 20%, Pete Buttigieg's 15%, Sen. Elizabeth Warren's 10% and Sen. Amy Klobuchar's 5%.