There is more than one way to strengthen our memory, scientists have found, opening up the possibility of new treatment strategies for brain damage.
Researchers from the University of Glasgow in the UK found that multiple parts of the brain are involved in memory processing, furthering our understanding of how the brain works.
Our brain constantly processes past events, often long after they have occurred. These "offline" processes consolidate and strengthen memories, even leading to the enhancement of memories while people are sleeping.
During learning, a memory for a skill is encoded across a network of brain areas.
Scientists already recognise that there are subsequent offline processes that can enhance memories, however until now they have not understood how these mechanisms work.
The study suggests that rather than a single circuit being responsible for memory enhancement there are distinct independent circuits each capable of supporting the same enhancement.
"The same improvement can be achieved through different routes," said Professor Edwin Robertson, lead author of the study.
"An important consequence of this organisation is that should one route become damaged due to disease the other remains with the capacity to support memory enhancement," said Robertson.
The researchers believe that rehabilitative strategies for patients affected by thediseases such as stroke, may be able to exploit this new understanding by encouraging different parts of the brain to support memory enhancement when other parts have been damaged.
The research was published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour.