In Brain's Electrical Ripples, Markers for Memories Appear - Facts So Romantic

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Reprinted with permission from Quanta Magazine's Abstractions blog. It's very easy to break things in biology," said Loren Frank, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco. "It's really hard to make them work better." Yet against the odds, researchers at the New York University School of Medicine reported earlier this summer that they had improved the memory of lab animals by tinkering with the length of a dynamic signal in their brains--a signal that has fascinated neuroscientists like Frank for decades. The feat is exciting in its own right, with the potential to enhance recall in people someday, too. But it also points to a more comprehensive way of thinking about memory, and it identifies an important clue, rooted in the duration of a neural event, that could pave the way to a greater understanding of how memory works. Since the 1980s, scientists have been tuning in to short bursts of synchronized neural activity in the brain area called the hippocampus.