Virtual Reality Games Reveal A Long Term Memory Brain Region in Mice

artificial intelligence

In a recent study, mice were given virtual reality (VR) games to play while researchers monitored their brain activity. This allowed them to investigate the neurobiology that underlies this concept. It revealed that a section of the brain not usually associated with memory retention can be crucial in determining what is recalled for a long time.

Mice were placed on top of a Styrofoam ball as they played the video game. Moreover, researchers gave them the ability to choose where they wanted to go in the virtual world. They were given limitless sugar water, a little amount of sugar water, or a puff of air to the face. Depending on where they chose to go in the game.

The mice gradually learned where the tastiest sugar water would be. Moreover, also when to brace for a puff of air. They used cues such as sights, sounds, and odours as indicators.

Furthermore, for several weeks, the mice were subjected to these tests until they began to move more slowly when they anticipated an air puff. And at full speed when presented with high-sugar scenarios. As they learned about the situations in which a lot or only a little was offered. They even gained a handle on how much to lick the sugar water spout.

While this was going on, scientists examined the effects of blocking or activating various brain regions on a mouse’s performance. They had issues when the hippocampus was inhibited.

Virtual Reality Paths

Moreover, they were unable to figure out the VR paths and where to find the finest long- and short-term rewards. The mice were still able to learn despite the anterior thalamus’s inhibition, but they were unable to store what they had learned in long-term memory.

The co-lead of the study, Andrew Toader said

The analogy would be your birthday dinner versus the dinner you had three Tuesdays ago

You’re more likely to remember what you had on your birthday because it’s more rewarding for you – all your friends are there, it’s exciting – versus just a typical dinner, which you might remember the next day but probably not a month later.”

The mouse model revealed that the anterior thalamus may be more important than previously thought in determining what is forgotten and what can be remembered for weeks to come when it comes to long-term memory.

Senior Author, Priya Rajasethupathy said,

The thalamus sets up gradually increasing long-range interactions with cortex to stabilize these memories for long-term storage

There’s a lot more to understand about how this selection and stabilization occur.

We think something like adrenaline or dopamine might be helping the thalamus to say, ‘okay, this memory is important to me, that’s not as important.’ And we still don’t understand how punctuated or continuous the memory stabilization process is, whether it occurs in one or a few steps or evolves continuously over a lifetime.


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