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November 2020 Newsletter

November 2020 Newsletter

Why are memories attached to emotions so strong?

Most people can remember where they were on 9/11, or what the weather was like on the day their first child was born. Memories about world events on Sept 10, or lunch last Tuesday, have long been erased. Why are memories attached to emotions so strong? “It makes sense we don’t remember everything,” says René Hen, PhD, professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. “We have limited brain power. We only need to remember what’s important for our future wellbeing.”

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Your brain approaches tricky tasks in a surprisingly simple way

Have you ever sat down to complete your morning crossword or Sudoku and wondered about what’s happening in your brain? Somewhere in the activity of the billions of neurons in your brain lies the code that lets you remember a key word, or apply the logic required to complete the puzzle. Given the brain’s intricacy, you might assume that these patterns are incredibly complex and unique to each task. But recent research suggests things are actually more straightforward than that. It turns out that many structures in your brain work together in precise ways to coordinate their activity, shaping their actions to the requirements of whatever it is that you’re trying to achieve.

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How the brain remembers where you’re heading

The brain appears to implement a GPS system for spatial navigation; however, it is not yet fully understood how it works. Researchers from Freiburg, Bochum and Beijing now suggest that rhythmic fluctuations in brain activity, so-called theta oscillations, may play a role in this process. These brainwaves might help remember the locations to which a person is navigating. This is the result of the researchers’ study conducted with epilepsy patients who had electrodes implanted in the brain for the purpose of surgical planning.

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