News of the WeekNeurobiology

Memory for Order Found in the Motor Cortex

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Science  12 Mar 1999:
Vol. 283, Issue 5408, pp. 1617-1619
DOI: 10.1126/science.283.5408.1617

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Summary

On page 1752, a team of neuroscientists reports that neurons in the motor cortex appear to do far more than simply orchestrate movements: They can help recognize and remember the sequence of events in time, at least as a prelude to movement. The researchers trained monkeys on a task that requires memorizing the order of events in time and found neurons in the motor cortex that showed an abrupt increase in firing only when a spot arrived in a certain place in the sequence, no matter what its location. If the findings hold up, it may mean that the information needed to perform complex cognitive tasks is distributed very widely in the brain. In that event, prospects for recovering from brain injuries may someday be brighter. If healthy areas share some functions of the damaged brain areas, clinicians may be able to boost those functions and stimulate more complete recovery.

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