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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.

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.

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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.

“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.”

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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.

The research appears in the journal Neuron.

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(Reporting by Will Dunham; Editing by Eric Walsh)


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Cristiano Ronaldo will not face rape charges in Nevada

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Juventus star Cristiano Ronaldo will not face any charges over an alleged rape in the US state of Nevada a decade ago, prosecutors said on Monday.

The Clark County District Attorney's Office said it had declined to prosecute the Portuguese star because it "cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt" that a sexual assault occurred.

Kathryn Mayorga, a former model, has claimed that Ronaldo raped her in a Las Vegas hotel in 2009.

The former Manchester United and Real Madrid star reached a financial settlement with her following the incident but has denied allegations of sexual assault.

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‘They are lemmings’: Democratic strategist blasts Republicans as ‘the party of cowardice and complicity’

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In a CNN panel Monday, Democratic strategist Maria Cardona unleashed on the way Republicans are continuing to give President Donald Trump a pass on his racist attacks on four congresswomen of color.

In a press availability, Trump told reporters that the four women are changing the Democratic Party, saying no one knows how to handle them.

After playing the tape, one of the panelists off-camera could be heard saying, "He's such a liar."

"It’s so insulting that he even talks about these four young women of color as 'people who need to be handled,'" Cardona said of Trump's casual misogyny. "They are elected members of Congress. They deserve respect. What I think really drives this president crazy is that they are young, and they are women of color, and that they are doing things that really take him off of his message. And they are also exposing what many of us have already known — that he is a racist, that he has taken a playbook out of the handbook of white supremacists telling them to 'send her back.' And then — then using that at his rallies and saying he doesn’t agree with it."

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2020 Election

Georgetown Law professor: Top broadcaster ‘likely’ killed interview because Buttigieg is gay

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A prominent Georgetown Law professor says Cumulus Media likely blocked an interview one of its country music station hosts had conducted with Pete Buttigieg from airing because the Democratic presidential candidate is gay.

After Huffpost reported that Blair Garner had been told by Cumulus Media he could not air any part of his interview with Buttigieg, Cumulus – the number three broadcaster in the nation of AM and FM radio stations – claimed the decision was based on the “equal time rule.”

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