Memory split uncovered

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The Independent Online
SCIENTISTS HAVE shown that short-term and long-term memories are distinctly different states of mind, raising the prospect of developing smart drugs to help victims of senile dementia.

Brain researchers have argued for nearly a century about whether short- term memory - remembering where you left the car keys - was just a step in a sequence of events leading to long-term memory, remembering what type of car you have for example.

A new study has finally shown that remembering events over a short period of time involves quite separate chemistry in the brain to that needed for storing long-term memory.

A team led by Ivan Izquierdo, a neuroscientist from the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil, has demonstrated for the first time that short-term and long-term memories work quite independently of one another.

In experiments on laboratory animals the researchers were able to block short-term memory with drugs that had no effect on long-term memory. The details are published today in the journal Nature.

Scientists want to work out how short-term memories are transferred into the long-term databanks of the brain in order to develop smart drugs that can help the process.