Researchers in the laboratory of MIT Professor Matthew Wilson at the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory study how activity of a brain region called the hippocampus — which is critical for spatial memories and memories of specific events — relates to memory formation and problem solving. In a new paper released today in the journal Scientific Reports, Wilson and his team members describe a new analytical tool they created that turns older models of memory formation on their head.
In the past, memory research used behavioral measurements as a readout for learning. For example, a scientist would track how fast a rat could figure out a maze after multiple trials.
But as neuroscience progressed, researchers began to probe the brain's activity during learning to see how it encoded, or learned new information. In finding patterns of brain activity during learning tasks those patterns would be searched for again at a later time — for example, during a memory test or even when the animal was asleep.