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How are scents retained in your memory?

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Structure of brain can help find the causes behind epilepsy.
Structure of brain can help find the causes behind epilepsy.
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  • A brain area is responsible for creating memories from smells
  • Piriform cortex which is a part of the olfactory brain helps distinguish smell

London, Dec 24, 2017: Ever wondered how you retain memories of your favourite dish cooked by your mother or your partner’s scent?

Scientists have found that a brain area is responsible for creating memories from smells as well as retaining those memories even years later.

The study showed that “the piriform cortex” — a part of the olfactory brain, that distinguishes smells — is involved in the process of saving those memories.

“It is known that the piriform cortex is able to temporarily store olfactory memories. We wanted to know, if that applies to long-term memories as well,” said Christina Strauch from the Ruhr-Universitaet-Bochum in Germany.

In the study, published in the journal Cerebral Cortex, the scientists wondered whether the piriform cortex needs to be instructed to create a long-term memory.

They then stimulated a higher brain area called the orbitofrontal cortex, which is responsible for the discrimination of sensory experiences. This time the stimulation of the brain area generated the desired change in the piriform cortex.

“Our study shows that the piriform cortex is indeed able to serve as an archive for long-term memories. But it needs instruction from the orbitofrontal cortex — a higher brain area — indicating that an event is to be stored as a long-term memory,” Strauch added. (IANS)

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Frequency of Brain Tumours Increase in Children With Common Genetic Syndrome

Applying the new criteria to MRI scans will help physicians identify probable tumours.

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Brain tumours may occur in children with common genetic syndrome
Brain tumours may occur in children with common genetic syndrome, Pixabya

Parents, please take note. The frequency of brain tumours has been underestimated in children with the common genetic syndrome — neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1), a new study has found.

According to the researchers, this disorder is characterised by birthmarks on the skin and benign nerve tumours that develop in or on the skin. Brain tumours are also known to occur in children and adults with NF1.

They estimated that only 15-20 per cent of kids with NF1 develop brain tumours. But the study, published in the journal Neurology: Clinical Practice, found that the frequency of brain tumours in this population was more than three times higher.

brain tumours can be confused with harmless bright spots, it has never been clear whether finding these abnormalities via MRI should be a cause for concern
Brain tumours can be confused with harmless bright spots, it has never been clear whether finding these abnormalities via MRI should be a cause for concern. Wikimedia Commons

“I’m not delivering the message anymore that brain tumours are rare in NF1. This study has changed how I decide which children need more surveillance and when to let the neuro-oncologists know that we may have a problem,” said senior author David H. Gutmann from the Washington University School of Medicine.

Brain Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans of children with NF1 characteristically show bright spots that are absent in the scans of unaffected children. Unlike tumours, they are generally thought to disappear in teenage years, the researchers said.

Since brain tumours can be confused with harmless bright spots, it has never been clear whether finding these abnormalities via MRI should be a cause for concern, they added.

Representation of a Brain Tumour. Flickr
Representation of a Brain Tumor. Flickr

For the study, the team developed a set of criteria to distinguish tumours from other bright spots. The researchers then analysed scans from 68 NF1 patients and 46 children without NF1 for comparison.

Also Read: Taking Care of Mental Health Problems in Children, may Boost Parent’s Mental Health Too 

All but four (94 per cent) of the children with NF1 had bright spots, and none of the children without NF1 did. Further, in 57 per cent of the children with bright spots, at least one of the spots was deemed likely to be a tumour, the research team found.

Applying the new criteria to MRI scans will help physicians identify probable tumours, but that does not mean that all children with NF1 should be scanned regularly, the researchers cautioned. (IANS)

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