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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.

Go deeper

Ina Fried, author of Login
45 mins ago - Technology

Intel CEO wants to compete against Apple

Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger hasn't given up on the idea of the Mac once again using Intel chips, but he acknowledges it will probably be years before he gets that chance.

  • In the meantime, he is focused on powering Windows machines that give Apple CEO Tim Cook a run for his money.

Why it matters: In getting pushed out of the Mac, Intel not only lost a customer, but picked up a new rival.

50 mins ago - Health

Education secretary reveals limits to Biden’s mask push on states

U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, in an "Axios on HBO" interview, said he's reluctant to withhold federal funding from states that won't enforce school mask mandates because he doesn't want to hurt students.

Why it matters: Cardona's comments suggest there are limits to how far the Biden administration will go in pressuring states to adopt universal masking — or vaccine mandates.

Mike Allen, author of AM
1 hour ago - Axios on HBO

GOP senator smacks Trump

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) told “Axios on HBO” he’s not sure former President Donald Trump would win the Republican nomination if he ran in 2024 — a rare voice of criticism from within the party.

  • When I raised the conventional wisdom that Trump would be expected to win the nomination, Cassidy jumped in.“
  • I don't know that,” the senator said during our interview in Chalmette, La.