Brain cells 'light up' as a mouse explores a virtual world, helping to understand how memories form
Perched on a polystyrene ball, a mouse enters a virtual gaming world. It makes its way through the patterned rooms of this strange new world, in search of rewards in the shape of cookies and other food. But this is no ordinary rodent game. While the mouse explores this new environment, a team of scientists are recording how the cells in its brain are behaving. Over several days of gaming, the scientists are able to see what happens to the mouse’s brain cells as new memories of this virtual world are formed. In one brain area, the hippocampus, new memories of this world are being mapped. This image shows the same cells flashing red each time the mouse reaches a particular region of the virtual world. By mapping space and time to individual brain cells, this study helps us to better understand how our memories are formed.
Written by Gaëlle Coullon
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