Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Brandeis Researchers Propose Model Of Neural Circuit Underlying Working Memory

Date:
December 20, 2005
Source:
Brandeis University
Summary:
Our ability to understand speech or decide which fruit in the store is freshest depends on the brain's dexterity in integrating information over time. The prefrontal cortex, where memory resides, plays a critical role. A Brandeis University study in this week's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences proposes for the first time a neuronal model for the mechanisms underlying this complex decision-making process.

Our ability to understand speech or decide which fruit in the store is freshest depends on the brain's dexterity in integrating information over time. The prefrontal cortex, where working memory resides, plays a critical role in helping us make these countless everyday decisions. A novel computational study by Brandeis researchers in this week's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences proposes for the first time a neuronal model for the mechanisms underlying a time-related task in this complex decision-making process.

Essentially, the study shows that neurons in the prefrontal cortex fire with greater or lesser intensity to finely control, or inhibit behavior, based on a neuronal feedback signal, or circuit mechanism. Such integral feedback control is probably at work in many regulatory areas of the body, such as temperature control and feelings of satiety to prevent overeating, but this is the first time this mechanism has been suggested as a role of neuronal firing.

The findings provide a framework for understanding how neurons operate in a part of the brain that controls behavior and which is often compromised in people with mental health problems such as schizophrenia, a disease that can entail problems with short-term memory tasks and misperceptions about the immediate environment.

"This novel study gives us another computational tool with which to explore the incredibly complex mechanisms at work in working memory -- an important portal to understanding many aspects of mental health and disease," said Miller.

Paul Miller, who authored the paper along with Xiao-Jing Wang, compared the neuronal integral feedback control mechanism, a concept common in engineering, to the way a home boiler works.

"When the boiler is on, the temperature of the room rises, increasing the rate of heat production from the boiler. Once the temperature of the room is sufficiently high, the thermostat switches off the boiler. This is feedback inhibition -- a sufficiently high temperature switches off the boiler, the same way in our neuronal circuit that sufficiently high neuronal activity will switch off earlier firing neurons," explained Miller.

"While a perfectly insulated room would maintain the high temperature, most rooms have leaks, so over time, would cool down. An important area of investigation in neuroscience is how neurons can make their leak timescales long enough to be useful for working memory tasks," added Miller.

###

The study was a joint research project of the Volen National Center for Complex Systems and the physics department at Brandeis University. The National Institute of Mental Health, part of the National Institutes of Health, and the Swartz Foundation, funded the study.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Brandeis University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Brandeis University. "Brandeis Researchers Propose Model Of Neural Circuit Underlying Working Memory." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 December 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/12/051220084016.htm>.
Brandeis University. (2005, December 20). Brandeis Researchers Propose Model Of Neural Circuit Underlying Working Memory. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/12/051220084016.htm
Brandeis University. "Brandeis Researchers Propose Model Of Neural Circuit Underlying Working Memory." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/12/051220084016.htm (accessed April 19, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Study On Artists' Brain Shows They're 'Structurally Unique'

Study On Artists' Brain Shows They're 'Structurally Unique'

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) The brains of artists aren't really left-brain or right-brain, but rather have extra neural matter in visual and motor control areas. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Is Apathy A Sign Of A Shrinking Brain?

Is Apathy A Sign Of A Shrinking Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) A recent study links apathetic feelings to a smaller brain. Researchers say the results indicate a need for apathy screening for at-risk seniors. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Are School Dress Codes Too Strict?

Are School Dress Codes Too Strict?

AP (Apr. 16, 2014) Pushing the limits on style and self-expression is a rite of passage for teens and even younger kids. How far should schools go with their dress codes? The courts have sided with schools in an era when school safety is paramount. (April 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) A new study conducted by researchers at Northwestern and Harvard suggests even casual marijuana use can alter your brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins