"Teleported" mice reveal secrets of memory

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Scientists have found out that memory comes in little packets, and they have found that out by making mice believe that they've been teleported.

Most people think of memory as a continuous logging of information. In fact, memory is parceled out in little pieces of information. These memory quanta are 125 millisecond pieces. These discrete packets of memory (Memorips? Memrons? Pixories? Mytes?), are one of the reasons why it often takes a moment of staring blankly at someone's face before remembering their name, or a pause before recalling an unfamiliar room when waking from a nap. These memories do not merge into each other. Each accessed memory stands on its own.

Scientists proved this separation of memorized information by finding a way to trick mice into thinking they'd been teleported. First they adjusted the mice to two separate sets of rooms. One layout of rooms was lit one way. The other layout was lit another way. After scientists had accustomed them to each layout, they monitored each mouse's brain activity as they placed them in a new room. When they lit the room they had placed the mouse one way, a certain pattern appeared in the mouse's brain. When they lit the room another way, giving the mouse the impression it had suddenly hopped to the other set of rooms, a different pattern appeared. Each pattern represented one 'map' memorized by the mouse. At no point did the maps overlap, the memorized patterns merging into one big mutant map. The mouse flipped back and forth between the memorized maps, each one completely independent, after a slight delay. Although we might get confused by flipping between memories quickly, these little pieces of thought don't actually get tangled up with each other. Memory is quantized.


Of course, the mice were pretty confused, but there are always prices to be paid for science.

Via Nature.

Image: Star Trek Next Generation