Washington: Scientists have developed a new model of memory that explains how neurons retain select memories a few hours after an event.

Terry Sejnowski, holder of Salk’s Francis Crick Chair and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, said previous models of memory were based on fast activity patterns, asserted that their new model of memory makes it possible to integrate experiences over hours rather than moments.

One problem scientists have had with modeling memory storage is explaining why only selective details and not everything in that 1-2 hour window is strongly remembered.

By incorporating data from previous literature, Sejnowski and first author Cian O’Donnell, a Salk postdoctoral researcher, developed a model that bridges findings from both molecular and systems observations of memory to explain how this 1-2 hour memory window works. The work is detailed in the latest issue of Neuron.

Using computational modeling, O’Donnell and Sejnowski show that, despite the proteins being available to a number of neurons in a given circuit, memories are retained when subsequent events activate the same neurons as the original event.

The scientists found that the spatial positioning of proteins at both specific neurons and at specific areas around these neurons predicts which memories are recorded.

This spatial patterning framework successfully predicts memory retention as a mathematical function of time and location overlap.

The new model also provides a potential framework for understanding how generalizations from memories are processed during dreams.

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