Electric ‘ripples’ in the resting brain tag memories for storage

Electric ‘ripples’ in the resting brain tag memories for storage

Yasemin Saplakoglu writes:

György Buzsáki first started tinkering with waves when he was in high school. In his childhood home in Hungary, he built a radio receiver, tuned it to various electromagnetic frequencies and used a radio transmitter to chat with strangers from the Faroe Islands to Jordan.

He remembers some of these conversations from his “ham radio” days better than others, just as you remember only some experiences from your past. Now, as a professor of neuroscience at New York University, Buzsáki has moved on from radio waves to brain waves to ask: How does the brain decide what to remember?

By studying electrical patterns in the brain, Buzsáki seeks to understand how our experiences are represented and saved as memories. New studies from his lab and others have suggested that the brain tags experiences worth remembering by repeatedly sending out sudden and powerful high-frequency brain waves. Known as “sharp wave ripples,” these waves, kicked up by the firing of many thousands of neurons within milliseconds of each other, are “like a fireworks show in the brain,” said Wannan Yang, a doctoral student in Buzsáki’s lab who led the new work, which was published in Science in March. They fire when the mammalian brain is at rest, whether during a break between tasks or during sleep. [Continue reading…]

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