Time Cells and Episodic Memory in Humans

Discussion in 'Human Science' started by Tiassa, Dec 28, 2020.

  1. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Valued Senior Member

    The abstract, from Umbach, et al., 2020:

    The organization of temporal information is critical for the encoding and retrieval of episodic memories. In the rodent hippocampus and entorhinal cortex, evidence accumulated over the last decade suggests that populations of “time cells” in the hippocampus encode temporal information. We identify time cells in humans using intracranial microelectrode recordings obtained from 27 human epilepsy patients who performed an episodic memory task. We show that time cell activity predicts the temporal organization of retrieved memory items. We also uncover evidence of ramping cell activity in humans, which represents a complementary type of temporal information. These findings establish a cellular mechanism for the representation of temporal information in the human brain needed to form episodic memories.

    The PNAS presentation includes a statement of significance:

    Time cells are neurons in the hippocampus and entorhinal cortex that fire at specific moments within a cognitive task or experience. While many prominent theories of memory encoding offer time cells as the source of the temporal component to memory, they have never been observed in human recordings. We identify time cell populations in the medial temporal lobe of humans during memory encoding and retrieval. Further, we demonstrate that the stability of the time signal provided by time cells during encoding influences the ability to temporally order memories at time of retrieval.

    This feels like it should be a big paper, which is also an easy overstatement for an armchair. Still: "a cellular mechanism for the representation of temporal information in the human brain needed to form episodic memories". That really does sound not simply like a neat technical accomplishment, but also an actual threshold with myriad possibilities beyond; that is, not simply a milepost but also a fundamental scientific access point to diverse pathways for future research. To the other, if this isn't the paper that is going to be remembered, what is?

    The reality of what comes next is likely considerably more boring than anything dazzled imagination might come up with. But, really, it feels like they just said they found a cellular mechanism for time-stamping our memories, lending to proper recall. And, yeah, that feels like something big.


    Umbach, Gray, et al. "Time cells in the human hippocampus and entorhinal cortex support episodic memory". Proceedings of the National Academny of Sciences. 27 October 2020. PNAS.org. 28 December 2020. http://bit.ly/34RRThb
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  3. elte Valued Senior Member

    pardon the pun

    To me something bigger than time cells would be controlled reversion of general cells back to stem cells--I guess back to near embryonic state--in order to reverse aging.
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  5. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    Brainless Slime molds can memorize time intervals.

    How Brainless Slime Molds Redefine Intelligence
    Single-celled amoebae can remember, make decisions and anticipate change, urging scientists to rethink intelligent behavior. By Ferris Jabr on November 7, 2012

    This video was produced through a collaboration between NOVA and Scientific American. To learn more about slime molds and other amazing creatures, watch 'What Are Animals Thinking?' on NOVA scienceNOW, airing November 7, 2012 at 10 pm on PBS.

    Forgive the verbose quotes, but this remarkable organism can teach us a great deal, due to its age and evolutionary continuity, which has refined into some remarkable adaptive abilities.
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