As millions of Americans struggle with memory loss and dementia brought on by increasingly common neurodegenerative disorders, like Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease, greater understanding of how the brain works and is affected in those suffering from memory loss will be key to advancing more effective and targeted treatments.
Published in Nature Communications, University of Minnesota Medical School, Duluth Campus researchers discovered the cerebellum coordinates the brain network essential for social recognition memory. Social recognition memory is a cognitive process that allows individuals to remember and recognize the identities of other people, particularly those they have previously encountered.
"Loss of recognition memory is a common symptom in neurodegenerative disorders. Understanding this complex brain function is a critical step that could lead to the development of targeted therapies," said Yi-Mei Yang, PhD, an associate professor at the U of M Medical School, Duluth Campus.
In this study, researchers directed cerebellar activity with precise control in preclinical models. They found that the cerebellum is engaged in the retrieval of social information by activating the neural matrix underlying emotional responses and cognitive functions.
The research team says future studies will include real-time monitoring of cerebellum-neocortex interactions during social recognition tasks.
Research funding was provided by the National Institutes of Health [grants R15 NS112964, R01 MH129300 and R01 NS112289], the Singapore Ministry of Education [grant MOE2017-T3-1-002], the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation Young Investigator grant and the Winston and Maxine Wallin Neuroscience Discovery Fund.
The work was also supported by the Medical Discovery Team on Addiction through the University of Minnesota Structural Circuits Core.
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