Ripples of nerve cell activity that lock in memories may have an unexpected job outside of the brain: dropping blood sugar levels in the body.
Soon after a burst of ripples in a rat’s hippocampus, a brain structure that plays a key role in memory, sugar levels elsewhere in the body dipped, new experiments show. The curveball results, reported August 11 in Nature, suggest that certain types of brain activity and blood sugar control – a key part of metabolism – are entwined in surprising and mysterious ways.
“This paper represents a significant advance in our understanding of how the hippocampus modulates metabolism,” says Elizabeth Gould, a neuroscientist at Princeton University who wasn’t involved in the study.
Neural shudders are called sharp-wave ripples zig and zag in the brains of people as they learn new things and draw memories back up (SN: 9/14/19, p.14). Ripples also feature prominently during deep sleep and are thought to accompany the neural work of transforming short-term knowledge into long-term memories.
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