Researchers observe the brain’s mechanism for real-time kinesthetic learning

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Among the different types of memory, procedural (or kinesthetic) memory relates to learning and storage of knowledge. For example, riding a bike or playing a musical instrument is part of this type of long-term memory. According to neuroscientists, it is a special type of memory that is encoded differently than the memory of names, for example. How are motor memories formed and why do they persist in our brain? A new study attempts to answer these questions and shed light on the possible causes of movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease. In this context, researchers have observed for the first time the formation of a “kinetic memory” in real time.

We think the engine memory is unique Announced from the start In a statement from Stanford University John Ding, assistant professor of neurosurgery and neurology and co-author of the new study. ” Some studies of Alzheimer’s included participants who were former musicians and did not remember their families, but were still able to produce beautiful music. There is clearly a big difference in how motor memories are formed. “.

These memories are encoded in the brain by a complex network of neurons, sometimes distributed in distant brain regions. In fact, learning and consolidating new motor skills requires flexibility in the motor cortex and striatum, two major motor areas of the brain.

One explanation for the special adaptations of neural activity associated with behavior is that these neurons form what is called an “engram memory” – or tracing of biological memory, in the brain. The question has always been what cellular and synaptic processes give rise to engram neurons during learning, and how these neurons integrate into brain circuits.

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In their new study, the researchers trained mice to use the motor function of their claws to reach food pellets located behind a small incision. They used a genetic approach to determine which neurons are activated during behavioral learning in the brain’s primary motor cortex (an area responsible for controlling movement).

Memory engrams form new neural connections with learning

They also traced these cells with a fluorescent marker to see if they were later involved in memory recovery. That being the case, the researchers noted that these same neurons were activated in mice that still remembered the new skill after a few weeks.

Engram memory evolves with learning, and new synaptic pathways are constantly being created. In detail, neurons in the motor cortex receive new inputs and form new output connections in a distant brain region: the dorsolateral striatum. These results define highly specific synaptic plasticity during the formation of long-term motor memory traces.

The researchers trained mice in a challenging maneuver to grab food pellets (top left), then used a technique called TRAP to mark which neurons in the mouse’s motor cortex were active when the new skill was learned (purple). They show that these neurons develop new synaptic inputs during learning (boxed: top right, purple “thorns”) and themselves form new connections with neurons in the striatum, which is part of the current downstream from the brain’s cerebral circuit. Movement (framed: lower right, green “thorns”). © Dinglab, Hwang et al. (2022)

The researchers explain that when we repeat learned skills, we strengthen motor engrams by creating new connections, which leads to skill refinement. ” When you learn to throw a basketball, you use a very diverse set of neurons each time you throw, but as you get better, you use a more precise set that is the same every time. said Richard Roth, co-author of the study. ” We had already assumed that these repetitive neural pathways were the basis of engram memory, but we wanted to know exactly how these pathways appear. “.

Towards a better understanding of movement disorders

In addition, the new study could help shed light on the causes of movement disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease. ” The current thinking is that Parkinson’s disease is caused by a blockage of these motor engrams, but what if these motor engrams are actually lost and people forget these skills? Remember that even walking is a motor skill we all learned once, and will likely be forgotten. ‘, reported to the authors.

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According to them, either Parkinson’s disease is caused by a blockage in motor memory, or it destroys motor engrams and prevents the creation of new engrams. Then specific treatments against the disease must be developed.

source : neuron

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