Truth to Power

What tales can your hippocampus tell?

A step closer to reading the mind

The hippocampus is widely known to be integral to memory, but researchers say they now see just how images are stored and recalled in this part of the brain.

Wellcome Trust scientists trained four participants to recognise several virtual reality environments.

Discernible patterns in brain activity then signalled where they were, they wrote in the journal Current Biology.

Neurons in the hippocampus, also known as “place cells”, activate when we move around to tell us where we are.

The team, based at University College London, then used specialised scanning equipment which measures changes in blood flow in the brain.

This allowed them to examine the activity of these cells as the participants – all young men with experience of playing videogames – moved around the virtual reality environment. The data was then passed through a computer.

“We asked whether we could see any interesting patterns in the neural activity that could tell us what the participants were thinking, or in this case where they were,” said Professor Eleanor Maguire.

“Surprisingly, just by looking at the brain data we could predict exactly where they were in the virtual reality environment. In other words we could ‘read’ their spatial memories.” </em>


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