WASHINGTON — New research released today provides insight into one of neuroscience‘s most intriguing mysteries: how the human brain learns and remembers. These studies — involving topics as diverse as musical memory, “change blindness,” and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) — illustrate the profound influence that specific changes in either the brain‘s structure, function, or both, can have on human behavior.
The research findings were presented at Neuroscience 2011, the Society for Neuroscience‘s annual meeting and the world‘s largest source of emerging news about brain science and health.
Specifically, the studies released today show that:
- Two brain regions associated with personal recollections and obsessive compulsive disorder are larger in individuals with highly superior autobiographical memory, a rare condition that allows people to remember nearly every event of their lives (Aurora Leport, abstract 603.04, see attached summary).
- A German cellist with severe amnesia not only performs normally on a standardized test for musical memory, he is also able to acquire new musical information. The finding suggests musical memories are stored differently than other memories in the brain (Carsten Finke, MD, abstract 287.17, see attached summary).
- The phenomenon of “change blindness,” the common inability to notice changes that occur right before our eyes, may result from a failure to consciously compare consecutive scenes, according to new research using a 100-year-old card trick (Luis Martinez, PhD, abstract 93.09, see attached summary).
- A key cognitive control area of the brain functions abnormally in children with ADHD — a factor that may make it more difficult for these children to perform in school (Tudor Puiu, abstract 93.13, see attached summary).
- The brains of postmenopausal, middle-aged women with cognitive complaints work harder when performing a working memory task than the brains of women without such complaints — a difference that may help identify those at risk for dementia (Julie Dumas, PhD, abstract 645.11, see attached summary).
“This research is helping us better understand the extraordinary complexity of what goes on in the brain as we‘re absorbing, and later recalling, information of all kinds,” said press conference moderator Howard Eichenbaum, PhD, of Boston University, an expert on memory formation. “Such research will also help us develop more effective interventions and treatments for brain diseases and conditions that interfere with — and sometimes even destroy — our ability to learn and remember.”
This research was supported by national funding agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health, as well as private and philanthropic organizations.
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