January 28, 2009
New Memory Neurons Get Timestamped?

I picture an intelligence agency changing some guy's memory timestamps so he thinks a whole year has gone by.

LA JOLLA, CA—"Remember when…?" is how many a wistful trip down memory lane begins. But just how the brain keeps tabs on what happened and when is still a matter of speculation. A computational model developed by scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies now suggests that newborn brain cells—generated by the thousands each day—add a time-related code, which is unique to memories formed around the same time.

"By labeling contemporary events as similar, new neurons allow us to recall events from a certain period," speculates Fred H. Gage, Ph.D., a professor in the Laboratory for Genetics, who led the study published in the Jan. 29, 2009, issue of the journal Neuron. Unlike the kind of time stamp found on digital photographs, however, the neuronal time code only provides relative time.

Lots of relative and absolute timestamps get used inside software. Incoming packets from a communications bus get timestamped as they come into a box. I write code that does this sort of thing. If neurons turn out to do the same thing this'll be very interesting. There's nothing new under the sun and all that.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2009 January 28 10:05 PM  Brain Memory

Lou Pagnucco said at January 29, 2009 7:20 AM:

I wonder if this is related to the "super memory" phenomenon in which people remember each day of their lives in detail. A recent press report on the subject is at -

People with Super-Memories Forget Nothing

One of the comments following the story poses two interesting questions:

(1) What kind of encoding does the brain use to achieve this incredible data storage capacity?
The (data bit)/neuron ratio is beyond enormous.

(2) Why hasn't evolution selected for this rare trait?

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