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New technique to see pathway in human brain

08-11-2010 16:54 BJT

LOS ANGELES, Aug. 10 (Xinhua) -- Using a new technique, U.S. researchers said Tuesday they saw for the first time a pathway in the human brain to the area that stores memories.

This undated photograph, released on April 18, 2010, shows a conformal, neural electrode array wrapped onto a model of the brain.  (Xinhua/Reuters File Photo)
This undated photograph, released on April 18, 2010, shows a conformal,
neural electrode array wrapped onto a model of the brain.  
(Xinhua/Reuters File Photo)

The discovery of the so-called Perforant Path could speed up diagnoses of Alzheimer's disease, said Craig Stark, the principal investigator and interim director of the Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory at University of California, Irvine.

The new technique offers higher-resolution images from a MRI machine, enabling the researchers to find the long-hidden section in the brain, according to Stark.

"We've long known this is one of the main connections between two portions of the brain responsible for episodic memory," he said.

"The problem has been that while we can look at it in a rat after dissecting the brain, or in non-human primates, but to actually see it in humans, and, more importantly, in perfectly healthy humans in a non-invasive way is something we've never been able to do until now."

The findings will help scientists better understand how aging affects the brain's retrieval of memories, Stark said.

"We know a lot about how rats change with age, but we know a lot less about how human brains change as they age," he said.

But monitoring the Perforant Path in the brains of volunteers ranging in age from 18 to 89 over the past year on the Irvine campus has confirmed for scientists that much of the research on rats is relevant, he said.

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