Brain Health

Rat Brains Hold Clue to Learning

Although it might sound like science fiction, researchers can now tell in an autopsy what a brain learned before it died.

Scientists from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory described how they “read” slices of a rat’s brain after it died. The experiment showed how the rat was trained to behave in response to specific sounds.

“Neuroscientists have previously identified brain areas involved in learning something,” says CSHL Professor Anthony Zador, who led the team of researchers on this current work. “But we wanted to drill down further and identify how changes at specific connections encode a particular behavioral response.”

After training the rats to respond differently to different sounds, the team thought they could use postmortem brain “slices” to indicate how the rats had been trained.

As a result of their analysis, Zador said, his team had “deciphered a tiny piece of the neural code with which the animal encoded these memories. In essence, we could read the minds of these rats.”

The study was published in the journal Nature.

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