Researchers at the University of Tokyo, Hokkaido University and University of Southern California have succeeded in visualizing storage of short- and long-term motor memory in the brain. By monitoring brain activity during exercise, their results are expected to contribute to the development of effective sports training and rehabilitation with long-term impact.
Memories rapidly decay when they are acquired in a short period (e.g., a short intensive learning before an examination), yet they are maintained for a long time when they are acquired over a long period (e.g., learning how to ride a bicycle). Previous studies have theoretically indicated existence of short- and long-term motor memories in the brain, but researchers had yet to visualize the process of memory acquisition and obtain supporting empirical evidence.
Professor Hiroshi Imamizu at the University of Tokyo, Graduate School of Humanities and Sociology, and his collaborators (Associate Professor Kenji Ogawa at Hokkaido University, Associate Professor Nicolas Schweighofer and Researcher Sungshin Kim at University of Southern California) succeeded for the first time in visualizing the acquisition processes of short- and long-term motor memory in different areas of the brain. The study demonstrated that the shortest memories are associated with the broad fronto-parietal network, intermediate memories are associated with specific regions in the parietal lobe, and the longest memories are associated with the cerebellum. This result was obtained by combination of computational modelling and a technique for measurement of brain activity (functional magnetic resonance imaging: fMRI).
“It is difficult to infer from human behavior if training effects are stored in short or long-term memory. Even if someone appears superficially to be able to perform an action well, the effect of exercise will soon disappear if it is stored only in the short-term memory,” says Professor Imamizu. He continues, “Our newly developed method combining brain imaging and computational modelling can estimate internal states of the brain and predict how long the memory acquired during the training will be maintained in the brain.” By monitoring brain activity during exercise, this method is expected to contribute to development of effective sports training and rehabilitation techniques with long-term impact.
This research result was published in the online international scientific journal, PLOS Biology.
Neural substrates related to motor memory with multiple timescales in sensorimotor adaptation.“, PLOS Biology: 2015/12/09 (Japan time), doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1002312.
Article link (Publication)