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NIH Director's Wednesday Afternoon Lecture Series


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Brain plasticity, defined as the brain's ability to learn and change in response to the environment, is a fundamental theme in neuroscience research today. One of the most common forms of brain plasticity is our ability to learn and retain new long-term memories for facts and events, a function that is dependent on the hippocampus and related structures in the medial temporal lobe. The memory palace is a technique originally developed by the ancient Greeks and Romans to efficiently encode and recall complex information. We now know that this approach is based on two key functions that are dependent on the structures of the medial temporal lobe. The first, termed associative memory, is the ability to quickly form new associations between unrelated items. The second, termed memory for temporal order, is the ability to construct a timeline for events in a sequence. 

In the first part of the lecture, Dr. Suzuki will describe findings from neurophysiological experiments that show how the hippocampus and related structures contribute to both associative and temporal order memory. In the second part of the talk, she will turn to recent work that addresses the question of how to improve or enhance memory and other cognitive functions. This work is based on findings from both animal and human studies showing that physical aerobic exercise has both immediate and long-term beneficial effects on a wide range of cognitive functions including mood, memory, and attention. Dr. Suzuki will describe her studies that examine not only the effects of a single bout of aerobic exercise on cognitive functions, but the effects of long-term increases in physical aerobic activity on cognitive functions in healthy adults. She will also discuss the neurochemical pathways and mechanisms that may be underlying these cognitive changes based on a key growth factor, brain-derived neurotrophic factor. 

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Earlier Event: November 3
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