A window into the brain

This is Dr. Yaniv Assaf of Tel Aviv University. Photo credit: AFTAUWhen we absorb new information, the human brain reshapes itself to store this newfound knowledge. But where exactly is the new knowledge kept, and how does that capacity to adapt reflect our risk for Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of senile dementia later in our lives?

Dr. Yaniv Assaf of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Neurobiology is pioneering a new way to track the effect of memory on brain structure. "With a specific MRI methodology called ‘Diffusion Imaging MRI,’ we can investigate the microstructure of the tissue without actually cutting into it," he explains. "We can measure how much capacity our brain has to change structurally, what our memory reserve is and where that happens."

His study, presented at the Annual Meeting of the Human Brain Mapping Organization in San Francisco, has been pivotal to the way scientists view the effect of memory on the brain. Scientists used to believe that the brain took days or weeks to change its microstructure. Dr. Assaf’s new observations demonstrate that the microstructure can change in mere hours.

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