California team gains insight into how the brain stores time-related information

A team at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) gained new insights into how the brain stores information related to time with the help of fMRI and HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

Participants of the study watched a 28-minute episode of the show while undergoing high-resolution brain fMRI. As part of the test, the group viewed still-frames and noted the exact time each frame was viewed. The researchers reported the lateral entorhinal cortex and perirhinal cortex brain networks became activated when participants had more precise answers to questions about the timing of certain events in the show.

The new discovery may provide insight into dementia, according to Michael Yassa, senior author of the study published Jan. 14 in Nature Neuroscience. In those with neurological degenerative conditions such as dementia, the temporal memory regions are among the first to experience age-related decay, including the development of tangles—a notable sign of Alzheimer’s disease.

The new network of brain regions discovered in this study also back-up the results of a prior rat study led by Nobel laureate Edvard Moser, according to a UCI news release

“The field of neuroscience has focused extensively on understanding how we encode and store information about space, but time has always been a mystery,” said Yassa, a professor of neurobiology & behavior at UCI, in the release. “This study and the Moser team’s study represent the first cross-species evidence for a potential role of the lateral entorhinal cortex in storing and retrieving information about when experiences happen.”

Importantly, Yassa pointed out the UCI group published findings last year in Neuron which found the lateral entorhinal cortex is dysfunctional in older adults with below average memory.

Yassa said their team is currently testing whether the newly discovered brain changes have an effect on time-related memory.