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Brain may forge some memories in waves

Although people effortlessly remember all sorts of everyday events, scientists are struggling to explain how the brain makes this possible. In two critical brain areas, such memory may hinge more on the timing than on the strength of neural activity, according to a team of neuroscientists.

As volunteers study word lists, clusters of neurons in the rhinal cortex and the hippocampus–adjacent brain areas already implicated in memory–fire synchronized electrical bursts that pave the way for remembering those words later, argue Jürgen Fell of the University of Bonn in Germany and his colleagues.

Moreover, the coordination of cell activity in the same two brain regions plummets for a fraction of a second just after participants remember a word from the list, possibly signaling an end to a coordinated neural effort, Fell's team proposes in an article slated to appear in Nature Neuroscience.

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