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New insight into spatial learning in the brain

Narrator:       This is Science Today. Neuroscientists at UCLA have discovered new evidence for a theory about how neurons make connections to each other and how that impacts learning in the brain. They found that individual synapses have optimal brain rhythms for which there is maximal learning. They also found that this rhythm can be made stronger by something as simple as running.

Mehta:           The faster you run, the more rhythmic that brain region becomes. Running is actually playing a role in learning space because when we are running, we think we are doing nothing except exerting our leg muscles; but we are also keeping track of space. If we didn't perceive the space around us faster as we run faster, we'll run into something.

Narrator:       Mayank Mehta, the study's senior author, explains how this spatial learning takes place in a specific brain region called the hippocampus.

Mehta:           That brain region is involved in learning, is the source of Alzheimer's disease strikes, epilepsy strikes, post-traumatic disorder strikes, all of it contained in this tiny brain region called the hippocampus.

Narrator:       This research may begin to explain how spatial learning and memory-related disorders are connected. For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.