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Total recall: How celebrity pictures helped scientists unlock secrets of memory retention

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With a little help from Clint Eastwood, Jennifer Aniston and Josh Brolin — or at least photos of them — scientists have gained a new understanding of how memories of everyday events are formed in the brain.

Researchers said on Wednesday a study involving people with electrodes implanted in their brains has shown that individual neurons in a region called the medial temporal lobe play a central role in swiftly forming these memories.

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The study involved 14 people with severe epilepsy. They had electrodes implanted to identify the brain location where their seizures arose. The devices also enabled the researchers to pinpoint individual neurons that encoded memories.

The subjects were shown about 100 pictures of celebrities including Halle Berry, Julia Roberts, Tiger Woods, Aniston, Eastwood and Brolin and places including the Eiffel Tower, Leaning Tower of Pisa and White House.

The researchers identified individual neurons that fired to a specific person, like Brolin, but not to a place, like the Eiffel Tower, and created composite images of the person at that place.

The subjects then were shown the composite images and the researchers tracked the activity of individual neurons as the patients processed new associations between people and places. The individual neuron that earlier had responded to Brolin’s image, for example, immediately began responding to the Eiffel Tower as well.

“This study goes into the heart of the neural code underlying one of the most fundamental aspects of human cognition and memory, namely the formation of associations,” said neurosurgeon Dr. Itzhak Fried of Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and the Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles.

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“The astonishing finding was that this basic code is so explicit at the level of individual neurons in the human brain,” Fried added, noting the researchers were able to record the activity of “one lonely cell in a multitude of billions of neurons in the brain.”

Neuroscientist Rodrigo Quian Quiroga of the Centre for Systems Neuroscience at Britain’s University of Leicester said the findings could be important for helping people with neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s.

“In order to understand and treat such pathologies it is always good to understand how the normal brain process of forming and encoding new memories works to then try to understand what may go wrong in the pathology and how to potentially treat it,” Quiroga said.

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The research appears in the journal Neuron.

(Reporting by Will Dunham; Editing by Eric Walsh)

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Giuliani can’t whine about ‘fair play’ when his boss is denying electoral fairness to the American people: columnist

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President Donald Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani has been raging against the impeachment investigation that came about, in large part, due to his own behavior. On Tuesday, he wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal lamenting that the impeachment process is "unprecedented, constitutionally questionable, and an affront to American fair play."

As Danielle Allen wrote for the Washington Post on Wednesday, Giuliani wanting to talk about "fair play" is a rich proposition.

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Trump made a ‘huge mistake’ talking to reporters about impeachment: Mueller prosecutor Andrew Weissmann

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One of former special counsel Robert Mueller's top prosecutors explained on MSNBC how President Donald Trump made a "huge mistake" on Wednesday.

Andrew Weissmann, who is now an MSNBC legal analyst, was interviewed by Chuck Todd on "Meet the Press Daily."

The former federal prosecutor says Trump committed a blunder by denying a call with a Gordon Sondland staffer.

"Why is that?" Todd asked.

"Because he now can’t rebut it," Weissman replied.

"He has now said I don’t remember that phone call. So you’re going to have Sondland testifying to it. You’re going to have a staffer testifying to it," he explained. "If [Trump] doesn’t like their testimony, he’s going to have to say, 'Oh, now I remember that I didn’t say that.'"

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Republicans want Americans to believe Trump cared deeply — about something he never mentioned

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One of the main points made by Republicans during the House hearings on the impeachment claimed that President Donald Trump cared so deeply about corruption in Ukraine that he was holding back the funding. It wasn't bribery because it was all about legitimate foreign policy, according to Trump and the Republicans in Congress.

Their greatest problem is that Trump has never held back speaking out about something he cared for. As the Washington Post noted, the argument doesn't stand up.

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