How the Brain Links People to Places: Scientists Tap Memory’s Neural Code

Oh hai! Good to see you again! Image credits:  LiftedPrius  

Oh hai! Good to see you again! Image credits: LiftedPrius 

After a 6-month hiatus, in which I graduated (woot woot woot!!), moved to the Bay Area, started a new job at UCSF with the one-and-only Dr. Saul Villeda of young blood-based brain rejuvenation fame and learned how to cook, I AM BACK! (#didyoumissme?)

To rev up my blogging engine, I'm currently collaborating with Singularity Hub weekly to cover new studies and cool trends in neuroscience. As the news and views portal of Singularity University – part startup incubator, part media, part educator – the Hub hopes to highlight some of the craziest scitech that's happening in our time (and beyond!).

The editors have been extremely accommodating, and my goal is to keep my articles still "me": a in-depth, level-headed look at cool new neuroscience studies. I hope you'll follow me along the ride, and let me know if I start swerving off into over-hyped media territory.

My first post covers a paper published earlier this month in Neuron. A team recorded the firing of single neurons from the medial temporal lobe (which contains the hippocampus, the brain region vital for encoding life events) of human patients while presenting them with a task that mimics "meeting someone somewhere for the first time". They found that at the exact moment of learning, neurons previously selective for only a face (Jennifer Aniston) broadened their tuning to also fire in response to a place (White House) that was paired with that face (Jennifer Aniston standing in front of a White House).

This means that single neurons can rapidly adapt to encode new association, even after only a single learning trial! To get the whole story, go ahead to SH and let me know what you think!

My deepest thanks to the study lead author Dr. Ison, who thoroughly answered my questions at 1:30AM in the morning, as well as to memory expert Dr. Howard Eichenbaum, who sent me some thoughts about the study.

Until next time!