Neuroscience of Learning and Memory

These are 6 lectures by Jeanette Norden about brain architecture, degenerative deceases like dementia, and mechanisms to slow down mental aging. Jeanette is a fantastic speaker and the lectures are easy to understand.

Here are some of the notes I took from the lectures.

Looking across different groups of animals, the brainstem is remarkably similar in structure and function; it is the telencephalon that undergoes the greatest change.




The brain alone contains 100 billion neurons – connected to each other by 100 trillion synapses.


Circle of Willis

The internal carotid and vertebral arteries supply the entire brain with blood; they join on the underside of the brain to form a circle of vessels called the Circle of Willis. While the brain constitutes only 2% of the body mass, it requires 20% of the oxygen – which is carried by blood; the brain has NO mechanisms for storing either oxygen or glucose. (From Blumenfeld, 2010)


Loss of Neurons in “Higher-Order” Cortical areas that destroys memory. On the left a brain with Alzheimer’s Disease.


Hippocampus (highlighted in yellow)


Links to the lectures

  1. Vocabulary & General Concepts of Brain Organization
  2. Cellular & Molecular Organization of the Brain
  3. Brain Areas Involved in Different Types of Memory
  4. What Modern Neuroscience Reveals About What Memory Is and Isn’t
  5. Disorders that Affect Memory
  6. How To Keep Your Memory and Brain Healthy and Happy

Jeanette Norden, Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology, Emerita, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, explores how the brain learns and remembers. This video focuses on a discussion of how the brain is organized in general.

These lectures will provide the foundation information necessary to the understanding of the lectures which will follow. A special emphasis will be given to systems in the brain that underlie learning and memory, attention and awareness. These introductory lectures will be followed by a lecture on how different areas of the brain encode different, specific types of information—from the phone number we need only remember for a few minutes or less to the childhood memories we retain for a lifetime. We will also address the “mistakes of memory” which give insight as to how the brain actually encodes our life experiences.

The last group of lectures in this series will focus on the many clinical conditions that can affect different types of learning and memory. Lastly, we will focus our discussion on the accumulating evidence that aging need not be associated with significant memory loss. We will discuss advancements in neuroscience that indicate ways to keep your brain healthy as you age.

To learn more about Vanderbilt, visit

Suggested additional readings

  1. Allman, J. Evolving Brains. W.H. Freeman, 2000.
  2. Kandel, E. In Search of Memory. W. W. Norton, 2006.
  3. Margalit, A. The Ethics of Memory. Harvard U. Press, 2004
  4. Schachter D. The Seven Sins of Memory. Houghton Mifflin Co. NY, 2001. (Other books by the same author as well.)
  5. Squire, L. Memory and the Brain. Oxford, 1987. (Other books by this author.)

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