Single Nerve Cell Can Hold a Memory: Study

New findings may shed light on addiction, memory disorders
By Katherine Thompson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 26, 2009 12:04 PM CST
The going theory about working memory was that temporary connections between neurons held a piece of information; now it seems possible that a single brain cell could perform that function.   (©MikeBlogs)
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(Newser) – Individual neurons in the brain can hang on to memories for a minute or longer, a new study finds. Something like a computer’s temporary random access memory (RAM), this working memory is what allows you to keep a phone number in your head for a few seconds, then forget it entirely once dialed. The research has wide implications, reports LiveScience.

Scientists previously thought working memory relied on small networks of neurons. Shedding light on short-term memory can help scientists understand not only memory problems, but attention disorders and addiction behavior as well. Quick, decision-making memory formation is usually enhanced by the presence of extra dopamine, but no such boost occurs in mice with cocaine-addiction levels of dopamine.