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L.A. Area Researchers Make Breakthrough That May Help Treat Epilepsy

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Researchers from three Los Angeles-area medical institutions have made a breakthrough in our understanding of epilepsy and other memory disorders. The team, headed by Dr. Jan Kaminski of Cedars-Sinai, concluded "persistent neural activity" is the basis of memory maintenance.

"Persistent neural activity is a putative mechanism for the maintenance of working memories. Persistent activity relies on the activity of a distributed network of areas, but the differential contribution of each area remains unclear," states the study, which will be published online Monday in the journal Nature Neuroscience, and in the April print edition. "Trial-by-trial variability in persistent activity in [medial frontal cortex and medial temporal lobe] areas was related to memory strength, because it predicted the speed and accuracy by which stimuli were remembered. This work reveals, in humans, direct evidence for a distributed network of persistently active neurons supporting working memory maintenance."

Basically, memory (both short-term and long-term) is spread across various parts of the brain. This memory network was previously unknown to neurologists, and heralds a breakthrough in our understanding of how memory is stored and maintained.

"Their research shows that neurons in the brain long associated solely with the formation of long-term memories also play a role in maintaining short-term memories," notes City News Wire. "The research team said this is the first clear demonstration of how human brain cells work to create and recall short-term memories."

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Kaminsk added, "Gaining a better understanding of how this works is crucial to developing new treatments for memory disorders [including epilepsy]."