Brain signals understand memory variations

Summary: Researchers have discovered brain signals associated with variations in memory performance. In the largest functional imaging study on memory, involving 1,500 participants, they observed differences in brain activity when recalling 72 images.

Brain regions, particularly the hippocampus, demonstrated a direct relationship between their activity and memory performance.

Important facts:

  1. The study, led by Professors Dominique de Quervain and Andreas Papasotiropoulos, is the world’s most comprehensive functional imaging research on memory.
  2. Brain activity in areas such as the hippocampus was directly linked to memory performance, with better memory showing stronger activation.
  3. The study identified functional brain networks related to memory performance, highlighting the complexity of brain communication during information storage.

Source: University of Basel

People’s memory performance varies greatly. Researchers at the University of Basel have now discovered that certain brain signals are related to these differences.

Although it is well known that certain brain areas play an important role in memory processes, until now it has not been clear why these areas exhibit different activities when it comes to storing information in people with better or worse memory performance. Are there or not?

This makes the person's head visible.
According to the researchers, the results are of great importance for future research aimed at linking biological characteristics such as genetic markers to brain signals. Credit: Neuroscience News.

After investigating the matter, a research team led by Professor Dominique de Quervain and Professor Andreas Papasotiropoulos has now published their results in the journal. nature communication,

In the world’s largest functional imaging study on memory, they asked nearly 1,500 participants between the ages of 18 and 35 to view and remember a total of 72 images. During this procedure, researchers recorded the subjects’ brain activity using MRI. The participants were then asked to recall as many of the images as possible – and like the general population, there were considerable differences in memory performance between them.

Signals in brain areas and networks

In some areas of the brain, including the hippocampus, researchers found a direct relationship between brain activity during the memorization process and subsequent memory performance. People with better memories showed greater activity in these brain areas. No such relationship was found for other memory-relevant brain regions in the occipital cortex – they were equally active in individuals with all levels of memory performance.

The researchers were also able to identify functional networks in the brain that were associated with memory performance. These networks involve different brain areas that communicate with each other to enable complex processes such as storing information.

“The findings help us better understand how memory performance varies between one person and another,” said Dr. Leonie Geisman, first author of the study. He said that the brain signals of any one person do not allow any conclusion to be reached. However, regarding their memory performance.

According to the researchers, the results are of great importance for future research aimed at linking biological characteristics such as genetic markers to brain signals.

Basel-based research on memory

The present study is part of a large-scale research project conducted by the Research Cluster Molecular and Cognitive Neuroscience (MCN) at the Department of Biomedicine of the University of Basel and the University Psychiatric Clinic (UPK) Basel. This project aims to gain a better understanding of memory processes and transfer findings from basic research to clinical applications.

About this memory research news

Author: angelica jacobs
Source: University of Basel
contact: Angelica Jacobs – University of Basel
image: Image attributed to Neuroscience News

Original Research: open access.
“Neurofunctional basis of individual differences in visual episodic memory performance” by Dominique de Quervain et al. nature communication


Neurofunctional basis of individual differences in visual episodic memory performance.

Episodic memory, the ability to consciously recall information and its context, varies significantly between individuals. While prior fMRI studies have identified some brain regions associated with successful memory encoding at the group level, their role in explaining individual memory differences is largely unknown.

Here, we analyze fMRI data from 1,498 adults participating in a picture encoding task in a single MRI scanner. We find that individual differences in the response of the hippocampus, orbitofrontal cortex, and posterior cingulate cortex account for individual variability in episodic memory performance.

While these regions also emerge in our group-level analysis, other regions, primarily within the lateral occipital cortex, are related to successful memory encoding, but not to individual memory variation. Furthermore, our network-based approach reveals a link between the responsiveness of nine functional connectivity networks and individual memory variability.

Our work provides insight into the neurofunctional correlates of individual differences in visual episodic memory performance.

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