Blake Richards, Assistant professor, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Toronto Scarborough
Talk Title: Memories are not Formed in a Vacuum: How the Medial Prefrontal Cortex uses Previous Experience to Shape New Learning
Brain & Behaviour Seminar Series 2013-2014
Neuroscientists often study individual memories in isolation. Yet, when multiple memories are saved using a distributed code they necessarily interact with one another. Research has shown that background knowledge, or schemata, can influence how new memories are encoded during learning. Further, it has been shown that the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) plays an important part in mediating the interaction between old knowledge and new experiences. However, the specific computations being performed by the mPFC when it incorporates new memories into previously learned schemata is unclear. Here, using a modified water-maze design, computational modelling, and designer receptors exclusively activated by designer drugs (DREADDs), I will provide evidence that the statistical relationship between new experiences and remote memories determines how the mPFC mediates the incorporation of new information. These results help to shed light on the specific computations being performed in the brain when new memories interact with old ones.
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