Toronto conference on Memory spotlights scientific advances in understanding the complex memory chip inside our heads

– Teaching girls to rewire their brains to fight off depression
– Determining what features of outdoor nature work best to revitalize brain power
– Identifying special brain cells that ‘geotag’ memories
– Challenging the notion that consumer fraud is more prevalent among older adults

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Toronto, ON –  Scientists at the forefront of understanding how the human brain makes memories, how sleep and dreams nourish thinking abilities, and how a walk in the park can refresh tired brains, are presenting at the 24th Annual Rotman Research Institute Conference, March 10-12 at the Omni King Edward Hotel in Toronto. This year’s theme is “Memory and the Brain in Health and Disease”.

Researchers, healthcare professionals and academics – over 300 attendees from all over the world – will meet for three days of scientific presentations and workshops. The quest to understand how memory systems work in the brain and how they break down with aging and neurological diseases is vitally important for shaping future clinical treatments, lifestyle strategies that fortify brain health longer in the lifespan, and even the design of cities and classrooms. 

Conference co-chair and world-renowned memory expert Morris Moscovitch says the field of memory research has made considerable advances in two key areas. “Memory is an interactive system that draws on all parts of the cortex. We are starting to understand how particular networks in the brain are important for memory,” said Moscovitch, a senior scientist at Baycrest Health Sciences’ Rotman Research Institute and professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Toronto.

The second major advance is a growing appreciation of the role memory plays in many of our cognitive abilities, such as problem-solving, economic decision-making, perception and navigation. “Memory infiltrates a lot of other domains,” said Moscovitch.

Among the scientific presenters at this year’s conference whose research offers potential stories for health and science media:

  • Ian Gotlib, Stanford University, will present very promising early evidence of cognitive and brain-based neurofeedback training strategies that are helping young girls at high risk for depression ward off the illness (Tues, March 11 @ 11:45 a.m.);
  • Emrah Duzel, German Centre for Neurodegenerative Diseases, will present the first brain imaging evidence showing three months of aerobic exercise improves blood flow in older brains and is linked to a very specific hippocampal function – more precise memory (Tues, March 11 @ 10:00 a.m.);
  • Marc Berman, University of South Carolina, will share early findings from new research aimed at identifying which particular features of outdoor nature work best to revitalize memory and attention skills (Tues, March 11 @ 4:15 p.m.);
  • Robert Stickgold, Harvard Medical School, will share research evidence from his lab about the benefits of a good night’s sleep and dreaming for optimizing memory abilities, including the ability to extract rich meaning and insight from the cacophony of experiences and information that come at us every day (Tues, March 11 @ 11:00 a.m.);
  • Michael Ross, a social psychologist from the University of Waterloo, will present findings that shatter the popular notion that consumer fraud is more prevalent among older persons. (Tues, March 11 @ 5:00 p.m.);
  • Michael Kahana, University of Pennsylvania, has captured memory-making at the level of firing neurons deep within the hippocampus. He will present evidence of special brain cells that automatically “geotag” memories to cache what happened and where (Monday, March 10 @ 3:45 p.m.);
  • And Daphna Shohamy, Columbia University, will present new data about the role memory networks play in how we make value-based decisions, such as making a big purchase or investing in the stock market; and how a better memory for rewarding experiences may not always lead to rational decision-making (Tues, March 11 @ 3:30 p.m.)

Joining Moscovitch as co-chairs of the 24th annual Rotman Research Institute Conference are Rotman senior scientist Lynn Hasher and scientist Brad Buchsbaum, both affiliated with the University of Toronto. We thank our supporters: HSBC (sustaining sponsor), Ontario Brain Institute (poster awards sponsor) and Logan Brothers (exhibitor).

 About Baycrest Health Sciences 
Headquartered on a 22-acre campus and fully affiliated with the University of Toronto, Baycrest is unique in the world, combining a comprehensive system of care for aging adults and one of the world’s top research institutes in cognitive neuroscience (the Rotman Research Institute). Baycrest’s dedicated centres focus on mitigating the impact of age-related illness and impairment, and offer unmatched global knowledge exchange and commercialization capacity.

Media planning to attend the conference are asked to sign in at the registration desk. To arrange interviews with any of the conference speakers, please contact: Kelly Connelly, Senior Media Officer, kconnelly@baycrest.org, C. 416 882-5307.