Skip to content

Brain’s ‘memory center’ needed to recognize image sequences but not single sights

The visual cortex stores and remembers individual images, but when they are grouped into a sequence, mice can’t recognize that without guidance from the hippocampus
July 26, 2021
Cross-sections of mouse brain

A pair of mouse brain cross-sections shows an unaltered one on the upper left and one with significant removal of the hippocampus on the lower right. Credit: Peter Finnie, MIT Picower Institute

A new MIT study of how a mammalian brain remembers what it sees shows that while individual images are stored in the visual cortex, the ability to recognize a sequence of sights critically depends on guidance from the hippocampus, a deeper structure strongly associated with memory but shrouded in mystery about exactly how.

By suggesting that the hippocampus isn't needed for basic storage of images so much as identifying the chronological relationship they may have, the new research published in Current Biology can bring neuroscientists closer to understanding how the brain coordinates long-term visual memory across key regions.

"This offers the opportunity to actually understand, in a very concrete way, how the hippocampus contributes to memory storage in the cortex," said senior author Mark Bear, Picower Professor of Neuroscience in The Picower Institute for Learning and Memory and MIT's Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences.