Olfactory Brain Affects Memory

by Colleen Fleiss on  May 1, 2019 at 11:59 PM Research News
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New aspect of how the processing of odors impacts memory centres has been discovered by two neuroscientists of Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB).
Olfactory Brain Affects Memory
Olfactory Brain Affects Memory

Dr. Christina Strauch and Professor Denise Manahan-Vaughan report about their findings in the online edition of the magazine Cerebral Cortex on 9 April 2019.

Electric impulses simulate odors

To find out how odors affect memory formation, the researchers triggered an artificial perception of an odor in the brains of rats. To do this, they stimulated the piriform cortex with electrical impulses. "We were very surprised to see that the hippocampus directly responds to stimulation of the piriform cortex," remarked Christina Strauch.

The hippocampus uses sensory information to create complex memories. The basis of this processes is its ability to increase the efficacy of information transmission across synapses and thereby store memory contents. This process is called synaptic plasticity. Manahan-Vaughan and Strauch were the first to show that stimulation of the anterior piriform cortex triggers synaptic plasticity in the hippocampus.

Special role for olfaction

In a second step, the researchers examined to what extent the piriform cortex competes with the entorhinal cortex in driving hippocampal synaptic plasticity. This structure sends information about activity in all sensory modalities to the hippocampus. Activating the afferent pathway of this structure, called the perforant path, triggered completely different reaction patterns in the hippocampus, to those generated by the piriform cortex. "The study gives us a theoretical basis for understanding how olfaction plays such a special role in memory formation and retrieval," commented Denise Manahan-Vaughan.

Source: Eurekalert

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