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Network That Plays A Key Role In Memory And Learning Processes Identified

One of the most devastating realities of living with someone with Alzheimer’s is that at some point they’ll lose their ability to recognise the people closest to then. However, hope is at hand, as researchers from Washington University in St. Louis have uncovered a new brain network that’s believed to play a key role in the processes associated with memory and learning. This new discovery has allowed scientists to study a new learning and memory brain network which processes information based on whether a person is seeing something familiar or a having a completely new experience. By collating evidence from a number of neuroimaging studies and methods, the researchers have been able to demonstrate the existence of this previously unknown network in the brain, citing it as one which appears to play a key role in human memory processing.
The Parietal Memory Network (PMN)
Lead author of the study, Adrian Gilmore, explained that when a person sees something for the first time, this particular network exhibits a noticeable decrease in activity. Conversely, when the person sees a familiar image or stimulus, the network’s activity increases. The researchers have described this new network as the Parietal Memory Network (PMN), and have noted how this newly discovered network exhibits consistent patterns of activity and non-activity in three distinct regions of the brain. This activity can be utilised by the scientists to predict how well the memory will store a particular piece of information, and how easy it will be to retrieve it at a later date. The PMN shows opposing activity patterns depending on whether the information is novel or familiar.
One feature of the PMN which has caused considerable excitement is that is appears to exhibit these particular response patterns regardless of what the person is doing. It turns off when we come across something new, and turns back on when we encounter things that we’ve seen before. This consistency gives the researchers hope that it can be utilised in future research, especially in relation to finding a treatment for Alzheimer’s, although it also has implications for studies centered on improving memory performance too.

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