How do our brains process memory and sense of orientation? Scientists are gaining insight by studying rats with implanted genes that prompt neurons to fire on command.
Researchers at the Centre for the Biology of Memory (CBM) at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim are studying how the human brain carries out its tasks related to memory and spatial orientation.
The knowledge being generated at CBM will also apply to areas of the brain other than those involved in these specific functions.
"The brain uses the same building blocks for a variety of functions, so our findings for memory and sense of orientation will likely apply to the rest of the brain as well," says Professor Edvard Moser. He heads CBM together with Professor May-Britt Moser.
Sensitive to light
The researchers are identifying which types of neurons are found in the brain's centres for memory and sense of orientation, and their respective functions. This is essential information since different types of memories are formed and stored in different neurons and neural pathways.
In order to identify the neurons, the researchers use gene technology and other molecular biological methods. CBM is one of the first research groups in the world to implement a new technique for identifying the functions of specific neurons.