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The brain decade in debate: I. Neurobiology of learning and memory


This article is a transcription of an electronic symposium in which some active researchers were invited by the Brazilian Society for Neuroscience and Behavior (SBNeC) to discuss the last decade's advances in neurobiology of learning and memory. The way different parts of the brain are recruited during the storage of different kinds of memory (e.g., short-term vs long-term memory, declarative vs procedural memory) and even the property of these divisions were discussed. It was pointed out that the brain does not really store memories, bur stores traces of information that are later used to create memories, not always expressing a completely veridical picture of the past experienced reality. To perform this process different parts of the brain act as important nodes of the neural network that encode, store and retrieve the information that will be used to create memories. Some of the brain regions are recognizably active during the activation of short-term working memory (e.g., prefrontal cortex), or the storage of information retrieved as long-term explicit memories (e.g., hippocampus and related cortical areas) or the modulation of the storage of memories related to emotional events (e.g., amygdala). This does not mean that there is a separate neural structure completely supporting the storage of each kind of memory but means that these memories critically depend on the functioning of these neural structures. The current view is that there is no sense in talking about hippocampus-based or amygdala-based memory since this implies that there is a one-to-one correspondence. The present question to be solved is how systems interact in memory. The pertinence of attributing a critical role to cellular processes like synaptic tagging and protein kinase A activation to explain the memory storage processes at the cellular level was also discussed.

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