Your brain is constantly forming memories, from specific details to big ideas. Imagine you are an experienced hunter searching for food in the African savannah. As you roam the landscape, you pass a bush and remember that a snake once attacked you near a patch of similar looking vegetation. To avoid another dangerous interaction, you continue along the trail. Memories linked together in space and time are stored close together in the brain. When one of those memories is triggered later, the other may fire as well. This allocation affects how we remember events. People with certain neurological conditions can’t properly form or allocate memories. Wouldn’t it be exciting to use our knowledge of memory formation and storage to build technologies that combat neurological disease?
How exactly do we form memories, and why do we know what we know? Since his teenage years, UCLA Neuroscientist Alcino Silva, PhD has been digging at these questions. Silva discovered how the firing of neurons holding one memory can cause the firing of nearby neurons encoding another memory. In other words, memories are catalogued in an organized fashion based on when and where they were formed, and Dr. Silva revealed the mechanism. Silva also found that this mechanism for linking memories across time breaks down as a result of aging.