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.

An Intricate Network: New Research Is Uncovering a More Complex Path for Memory

Mar 05, 2013

New findings reveal memory networks more intricate than previously believed. Understanding these pathways may help develop ways to enhance learning, mitigate memory disorders such as Alzheimer’s or guard against memory loss from aging.

The Fantastic Plastic Brain

Jul 26, 2012

Recent research is beginning to answer these fundamental questions by exploring the plasticity of the adult brain—its ability to readily be shaped by experience. Contrary to the common assumption that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, there is increasingly strong evidence that the adult human brain is remarkably malleable and capable of new feats even in the last decades of life.

At the Centre of It All

Apr 28, 2012

Kavli Institute directors Edvard and May-Britt Moser have just established the Norwegian Brain Centre at Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim. WIth its opening, the Centre becomes one of the largest of its kind worldwide.

Diseases In A Dish: Modeling Mental Disorders

Oct 07, 2011

Using skin cells from patients with mental disorders, scientists are creating brain cells that are now providing extraordinary insights into afflictions like schizophrenia and Parkinson’s disease.

Tobias Bonhoeffer on the Adaptive Brain in Action

Jun 29, 2010

Armed with new imaging methods such as two-photon microscopy, Tobias Bonhoeffer, director of the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology in Martinsreid, Germany, is a leading researcher on how the brain adapts to its environment.

Smart Moves: Daniel Wolpert, Motor Control and the Brain

Mar 10, 2010

Whether engaged in a chess game or something less obvious, the brain is constantly thinking. Daniel Wolpert, a professor of engineering at the University of Cambridge, admits that a game of chess is an excellent demonstration of the brain at work.

Morality and the Social Brain

Oct 19, 2009

Earlier this year, the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) held a 10-week graduate seminar on the neuroscience behind moral decision-making. 

Understanding Our Sense of Place

Nov 29, 2008

Among the vast store of memories we carry around in our heads, there is a large and crucial collection of maps. Most of these have little to do with geography in the usual sense; they’re more like road maps to our everyday surroundings.

Mapping the Brain

Mar 29, 2008

Neurobiologists have studied the brain for over a hundred years, yet they are still far from understanding its basic operations and the overall logic of its neural circuitry. 

Frontiers in Neuroscience

A model illustrating how neuronal gates work to channel just thre right ammount of information. (Courtesy of Amy Arnsten, Yale University)
Jun 25, 2007

In the 21st century, scientists hope not only to uncover the secrets behind our most devastating neurological diseases, but how the brain makes us who we are.


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