idw – Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

Nachrichten, Termine, Experten

Grafik: idw-Logo
Grafik: idw-Logo

idw - Informationsdienst

Thema Corona

Science Video Project
idw-News App:


Share on: 
11/30/2020 10:54

Neuronal connections determine recall and learning

Elisabeth Spiegelberger Presse- und Öffentlichkeitsarbeit
Max-Planck-Institut für Psychiatrie

    Memories are part of our lives, the good and the bad. Through our senses, experiences reach our brain where networks of nerve cells encode them into a memory. It was previously unclear why only certain nerve cells join together for this purpose. Researchers have now discovered that stable connections of neurons are a support for memories to be generated. Flexible connections on the other hand were found to be responsible for learning.

    Why are only particular neurons involved in forming a memory? To answer this question, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry and the Weizmann Institute of Science looked at a brain region that is crucial for memory and learning, the hippocampus. Using a cutting-edge technique (called deep brain two-photon microscopy) enabled them to observe the function of regions located deep inside the brain.

    Over a period of seven days, the researchers observed the neuronal connectivity happening live in the brain cells of mice. They could see the nerve cells becoming active as a network during a new experience. “For the first time, we could observe neurons while they encode this new experience and study their connectivity not only after but even before.” explains Alessio Attardo, project group leader at the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry.

    Importantly, they saw that neurons that go on to become part of a memory had more stable connections than those that did not go on to become part of a memory. In a subsequent step, the scientists gave the mice a learning task. Interestingly, the rodents whose hippocampal neurons were more stably connected did not learn the task as well as the mice that had more flexible neural connections. From this, the team concluded that while stable connectivity of a subset of neurons pushes these neurons into forming new memories, flexible connectivity enables better learning.

    These findings have recently been published in the journal PLOS Biology. The study sheds new light on the cellular mechanisms that the brain's networks of neurons use to encode experiences and generate memories. "Understanding these mechanisms could help us develop better strategies for treating the learning- and memory deficits associated with a range of psychiatric disorders," Attardo concluded.

    Contact for scientific information:

    Dr. Alessio Attardo

    Original publication:

    More information:

    Criteria of this press release:
    Journalists, Scientists and scholars
    Biology, Medicine
    transregional, national
    Research results


    Search / advanced search of the idw archives
    Combination of search terms

    You can combine search terms with and, or and/or not, e.g. Philo not logy.


    You can use brackets to separate combinations from each other, e.g. (Philo not logy) or (Psycho and logy).


    Coherent groups of words will be located as complete phrases if you put them into quotation marks, e.g. “Federal Republic of Germany”.

    Selection criteria

    You can also use the advanced search without entering search terms. It will then follow the criteria you have selected (e.g. country or subject area).

    If you have not selected any criteria in a given category, the entire category will be searched (e.g. all subject areas or all countries).