Repetitive Tasks Crystallize Memory Pathways in the Brain

According to a recent study conducted by UCLA Health, repeated practice not only helps to improve skills but also causes significant alterations in the brain's memory pathways.

Rockefeller University co-led the research published in Nature, which aimed to explain how training enhances working memory, the brain's capacity to store and process information.

Over the course of two weeks, mice were given a series of scents to recognize and remember to test this. After that, researchers monitored the animals' brain activity while they practiced the task using a unique, specially designed microscope that can capture cellular activity in up to 73,000 neurons simultaneously throughout the cortex. 

According to the study, the working memory circuits in the secondary motor cortex underwent changes as the mice performed the task over time. The mice's memory representations were erratic when they were initially learning the task. However, subsequent practice made the memory patterns “crystallize,” according to Corresponding Author and UCLA Health Neurologist Dr. Peyman Golshani. 

If one imagines that each neuron in the brain is sounding a different note, the melody that the brain is generating when it is doing the task was changing from day to day, but then became more and more refined and similar as animals kept practicing the task.”

Dr. Peyman Golshani, Study Corresponding Author, UCLA Health

 These alterations shed light on why repeated practice leads to more accurate and instinctive performance.

This insight not only advances our understanding of learning and memory but also has implications for addressing memory-related disorders.”

Dr. Peyman Golshani, Study Corresponding Author, UCLA Health

Source:
Journal reference:

‌Bellafard, A., et al. (2024) Volatile working memory representations crystallize with practice. Nature. doi.org/10.1038/s41586-024-07425-w

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