Memory Research Misses The Obvious

The search to reveal a mystery. Research laboratories around the world sought the location of human memory. The research had followed diverse leads. One clue related to the branched inputs of nerve cells, called dendrites. Branch growth was assisted by a protein called cypin. Some memory disabilities were related to deficits in cypin. So, one possibility was that nerve cells grew new branches to store memory. New branches could represent added memory. But, human memory was immense. People were reported to be able to recognize, with 99.5% accuracy, any one of 2,500 images shown to them at one second intervals. Each of those images contained millions of pixels of specific information. When the size and scale of human memory was considered, the idea of branches, however microscopic, growing to add memories sounded perilously cancerous.

More hints. LTP was another possibility. High frequency stimulation of the dendrites of a neuron were known to improve the sensitivity of the synaptic nerve junctions. Such activity was seen to be "remembered" by the cell through greater sensitivity at specific inputs. Neurochemicals at the synaptic junctions were also known to increase such sensitivity. But, while the process enhanced memory, LTP failed to offer a global hypothesis about how memory could be stored.

Without answers. The hippocampus was also mentioned in connection with memory research. Damage to this organ, a component of a region of the brain called the limbic system, was known to cause patients to forget ongoing events within a few seconds. But, incidents from childhood and early adult life were still remembered. Memory had faded from a couple of years prior to the event that caused damage to the hippocampus. Older memories were still retained by the patient even without the hippocampus. Evidently, the organ did not store such memories. It could play a role, but the actual storage of memory remained enigmatic. In the end, all science did know was that memory resided all over the system and that one particular organ helped the formation of memories.
Combinatorial coding. Yet, the answer to the memory enigma had been staring them in the face for years. That happened, when science acknowledged the use of combinatorial coding by nerve cells in the olfactory system. Combinatorial coding sounded confusing and complex. But, in the context of nerve cells, combinatorial coding only meant that a nerve cell recognized combinations. If a nerve cell had dendritic inputs, identified as A, B, C and so on to Z, it could then fire, when it received inputs at ABD, ABP, or XYZ. It recognized those combinations. ABD, ABP, or XYZ. The cell could identify ABD from ABP. Subtle differences. Such codes were extensively used by nature. The four "letters" in the genetic code