Mayank Mehta, PhD: New ways to diagnose learning and memory disorders


"By showing [Orson] Welles's movie "Touch of Evil" to mice, Chinmay Purandare, PhD, and Prof. Mayank Mehta of UCLA have uncovered surprising and important new insights about how neurons form memories. The discovery points to new ways to diagnose Alzheimer's and other learning and memory impairments, while also improving artificial intelligence.

Mice were shown a short clip from the 1958 film noir classic "Touch of Evil" as scientists monitored their brain activity. This was a rather nondescript black-and-white, silent movie clip showing humans walking about. Textbook knowledge and conventional wisdom says that mice should not show interest in such a movie and nor should neurons in a part of their brain called the hippocampus, which is known to be crucial for learning and memory. When scientists looked inside this part of the mouse brain, they found that it only acts as "the GPS system of the brain" (as described in the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine), which is unrelated to general learning, e.g. a conversation. This was a major obstacle in research on diagnosis of memory and on mechanisms of abstractions or AI.

However, the researchers made a blockbuster finding: There were surprising, but highly systematic bursts of activity in the hippocampus in response to this movie. Scientists could even reconstruct specific movie segments using these mysterious bursts from only a fraction of hippocampal neurons."

Read more at AZO Life Sciences.