Whole brain sectionIn mice, a small region of the hippocampus known as CA2 (green) is essential for social memory, the ability of an animal to recognize another of the same species. (Credit: Steven Siegelbaum, Columbia University Medical Center)

The human brain, just a 3-pound mass of tissue, has the ability to remember a lifetime of experiences. Our short-term, or working, memory serves as a kind of mental workspace, transiently retaining new information that helps guides our thoughts and actions. Long-term memories, which are retained indefinitely, can be implicit, or unconscious, such as some motor skills that have been learned over time. They can also be explicit, meaning that retrieving stored information about people, places and things requires conscious effort.

Some of the central questions in memory research include: How and where do we make new memories? How are they sustained for long periods of time? How are memories stored and retrieved? What can be done to prevent memory loss? And can our memories be manipulated? Scientists such as Eric Kandel, Kavli Professor of Neuroscience at Columbia University, have pieced together many of the chemical and structural changes in brain cells as different types of memories are encoded and retained, and have also identified many of the proteins involved. And very new research in mice suggests that false memories can be created artificially, raising hope that new treatments will be developed to help individuals with traumatic memories and other memory-related disorders.

How Sleep Refreshes Our "Etch-A-Sketch" Brains

Jun 22, 2017

For the first time, scientists have watched sleep transform the brain. The research confirms a long-standing theory about the value of sleep—and helps explain why sleep deprivation messes with our ability to remember. Four neuroscientists—Chiara Cirelli, Graham Diering, Richard Huganir and Ken Paller—discuss two breakthrough sleep studies. 

Scientists Want to Use Brain Implants to Tune the Mind

Mar 15, 2017

Can new technologies be used to treat mental illness or enhance memory? Three brain researchers—Helen Mayberg, Brian Litt and Jose Carmena—are betting on it.

Solving the Puzzle of Alzheimer’s Disease

Amyloid plaques
Sep 15, 2016

In a roundtable discussion, three leading scientists in the fields of neuroscience, brain imaging and cell biology weigh in on what it will take to find a cure for Alzheimer's and related neurodegenerative disorders.

The Nose Knows

KITP Deputy Director Greg Huber, neuroscientist Anne-Marie Oswald and biologist Venkatesh Murthy. Photo Credit: Matt Perko
Jul 29, 2015

Collaboration among international scientists at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics is helping to resolve questions about the sense of smell.

Modeling the Brain on ‘Replay’: A Q&A with Attila Losonczy

Sep 30, 2014

KIBS researchers aim to crack the code of the mammalian brain, starting with one of its memory networks. Neuroscientist Attila Losonczy discusses the ambitious plan and why it has received the support of President Obama’s BRAIN Initiative.

2014 Kavli Prize in Neuroscience: A Discussion with Brenda Milner, John O’Keefe and Marcus E. Raichle

Sep 07, 2014

The winners of the 2014 Kavli Prize in Neuroscience – Brenda Milner, John O’Keefe and Marcus E. Raichle – discuss what led them to study memory and cognition and the challenges they faced in getting their discoveries about the brain accepted.

Aging and the Changing Landscape of Memory

Apr 04, 2014

For most of us, a declining memory is a normal consequence of growing old. But why? What’s happening in the brain that causes age-related memory decline, and is there anything we can do to slow this decline?

Spotlight Live: Memory and Aging

Nov 06, 2013

Nobel Laureate Dr. Eric R. Kandel, and Drs. Elias Pavlopoulos and Scott A. Small discuss compelling evidence that age-related memory loss is a syndrome in its own right apart from Alzheimer’s disease.

Spotlight Live: Language Development & Babies

Sep 11, 2013

On Sept. 17, Noon-12:30 PDT, Eino Partanen, Jeff Elman and Christine Moon answer your questions about early language development and the making of memories in the womb.

Spotlight Live: Uncovering a More Complex Path for Memory

Apr 11, 2013

On April 11, science writer Bruce Lieberman talked about memory and the brain with two leading researchers in the field: Bradford Dickerson and Mayank Mehta. 


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