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Spectrum: Autism Research News

Community Newsletter: All about the hippocampus

by  /  9 April 2023
Many mouths making conversation, with speech bubbles in red and blue.
Illustration by Laurène Boglio

Researchers in our social-media feeds this week took note of two new studies of the hippocampus, both published 3 April in Nature Neuroscience. The first study explored how people use and update their cognitive maps of spatial information during a navigation task.

Study participants played a computer game in which they learned to locate 12 monsters inside a virtual arena. They then used that knowledge on subsequent tasks. For example, after seeing an image of one monster, participants saw two others and had to choose which one was located closer to the first in the arena.

On a final test, participants were able to combine the knowledge gained from the various tasks to correctly infer information about the remaining monsters. “This suggests that participants formed and used a map for generalization!” tweeted Mona Garvert of the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, in a thread detailing her team’s work.

“Great to see this cool study … on cognitive maps and generalization out!” tweeted Erie Boorman of the University of California, Davis.

Philipp Paulus of the Imaging Memory and Consolidation Lab at the University of Freiburg lauded the “great results” in the paper.

The other paper that rose to the top of our feeds this week tracked how neuron activity in two areas of the hippocampus — dorsal and ventral — evolved during an odor-learning task in mice.

The results “show how the hippocampus encodes, stores and updates learned associations and illuminates the unique contributions of dorsal and ventral hippocampus,” according to the study.

Mazen Kheirbek of University of California, San Francisco, tweeted a video clip of neurons, along with a link to his team’s study.

“Been following this story for a while and so excited to see it out!” tweeted Yasmine Ayman of Harvard University.

This is awesome!!” tweeted Kate Wassum of the University of California, Los Angeles.

That’s it for this week’s Community Newsletter! If you have any suggestions for interesting social posts you saw in the autism research sphere, feel free to send an email to [email protected].

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