The US National Institute of Health (NIH) has awarded Dr Noa Ofen and colleagues, at Wayne State University in Detroit, $1.9 million (almost £1.5 million), over five years, to examine the formation of memory networks in the developing brain.Dr Ofen hopes her findings will be applied to paediatric epilepsy surgery, to help predict and reduce the risk of subsequent memory problems.Dr Ofen comments: “Little is known about how memory systems develop in the human brain. In this project, we will use a combination of unique neuroimaging methodologies that allow us to add new insights about the neural basis of memory development. We also hope this project will be a first step toward clinical applications that can ultimately improve the quality of life of children with focal epilepsy.”For the study, the researchers will take electrical recordings using electrodes directly implanted on the surface of the brain, whilst the person performs standard memory tasks. This method, known as electrocorticography (ECoG), is highly invasive, and so subjects will be children with focal epilepsy, who are undergoing pre-surgical assessment and need to have ECoG as part of this. The technique will allow the researchers to examine exactly what neurons are doing during memory formation, and study, in real time, information that is predictive of whether information/experiences will be remembered after surgery.The team will use the information gained during ECoG to map memory networks within the brain. They will also collect functional MRI data from a subset of the children, and from a large number of healthy controls, to try and determine how age naturally affects the activation of and connections between major regions of memory networks.This project will be instrumental in identifying, in great detail, the functions of memory networks in the developing brain. The team also hopes to extend the mapping of memory networks to key areas of the brain, so that measures can be taken to avoid damaging these during epilepsy surgery. This will help to reduce the risk of subsequent memory problems and greatly improve quality of life.Author: Dr Özge ÖzkayaClick here for more articles about brain science including genetics.