Most scientists who study the brain believe that memories are stored through networks of synapses, or connections that form between neurons. Learning takes place as neurons form new connections and strengthen or weaken existing ones, giving the brain its so-called synaptic plasticity. There is growing evidence, however, that the intrinsic, built-in properties of the cells… Read more

A causal mechanism of how novel stimuli promote learning has been identified by brain scientists from KU Leuven and the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology. The findings have implications for improving learning strategies and for the design of machine learning algorithms. “Previous work suggested that novelty might activate the dopamine system in the brain. Therefore we… Read more

Effortless learning during sleep is a fantasy of many people. The supportive effect of smells on learning success when presented both during learning and sleep was first proven in an extensive sleep laboratory study. Researchers at the University of Freiburg Medical Center, the Freiburg Institute for Frontier Areas of Psychology and Mental Health (IGPP) and… Read more

Having a larger hippocampus doesn’t always reliably predict learning and memory abilities in older adults, research suggests. It’s normal for the hippocampus — a curved, seahorse-shaped structure embedded deep in the brain — to shrink as we age, but it’s much more pronounced in people with mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists long believed… Read more

To find food and avoid danger in changing environments, animals need to be able to learn to associate specific sensory stimuli, such as odors, with reward or punishment. Such memories must also adapt to reflect new circumstances. How is such memory flexibility achieved? An excellent model system for studying these questions is the fruit fly… Read more