Building “Stories”: Memory Consolidation in the Hippocampus
Graduate Scholars Lectureship by Zhenrui Liao
Our identities as humans depend on our ability to remember the past. We experience this memory in the form of autobiographical “stories”: memories of sequences of events, what we were doing, and who we were with at various points in our lives. However, how these memories are constructed and represented in the brain, and how these same mechanisms allow us to understand the structure of knowledge beyond our immediate experiences, remains incompletely understood. Such high-level questions are intrinsically difficult to tackle: we can ask humans to do complex cognitive tasks, but we cannot use high-resolution recording methods on living human brains; in contrast, we can record invasively and at high resolution in nonhuman animals, but the tasks we can do with animals are generally very simple. Zhenrui Liao will present highlights from his PhD work on the neural circuits of memory in the hippocampus, particularly techniques he developed to study the learning of more “human-like” knowledge spaces in rodents.
Zhenrui Liao is an MD/PhD candidate at Columbia University. He received his PhD in Neuroscience in December 2022 supervised by Professor Attila Losonczy and will finish medical school in May 2024, with a plan to apply to residency in Neurology and pursue a career combining basic and computational research with clinical practice in neurological diseases.