Scientists call the discovered cells "time cells." They put a kind of time stamp on
“If 'time cells' create this indexing duringtime, you can piece all the memories together in a way that makes sense, ”explains Dr. Bradley Lega, senior study author and neurosurgeon at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.
Time cells have been found in rodentsseveral decades ago. But the new research is critical because “the human brain is always the ultimate arbiter,” stresses Dr. Gyorgy Bujaki, professor of neurology at New York University. Bujaki is not the author of the study, but edited the manuscript.
Dr. Lega and his team found the "time cells"studying the brains of 27 people who were awaiting surgery due to the consequences of severe epilepsy. As part of the preoperative preparation, these patients were placed electrodes in the hippocampus and another area of the brain responsible for navigation, memory and time perception.
In general, in itself, the hippocampus is partthe limbic system of the brain and the hippocampus formation. It is involved in the mechanisms of emotion formation, memory consolidation (that is, the transition of short-term memory to long-term memory), as well as spatial memory required for navigation.
During the experiment, the patients studiedsequences of 12 or 15 words that appeared on the laptop screen for about 30 seconds. Then, after a break, they were asked to recall the words they saw. In the meantime, the researchers measured the activity of individual brain cells. And they found a small number of cells that "fired" at a specific time during each sequence of words.
“The time cells we found mark discrete chunks of time within this roughly 30-second window,” explains the study's author.
These time stamps seemed to help peopleremember when they saw each word and in what order, he says. And the brain probably uses the same approach when we re-live experiences as powerful as falling off a bicycle.
The results of the experiment help explain why people with damage to the hippocampus can experience strange memory problems, concludes Dr. Bujaki.
But even though the time cells havecritical when creating sequences, he stresses that they are not really like clocks that "tick at a constant pace." Instead, the beats of the "time cells" continually speed up or slow down, depending on factors such as mood.
“This happens, for example, when we ask,when the COVID-19 pandemic ended. The days seem to be very long while we are alarmed. But when we are having a good time, it flies by unnoticed, ”concludes Buzhaki.
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