Neuroscientists from New York University and the University of California, Irvine have isolated the "when" and "where" of molecular activity that occurs in the formation of short-, intermediate-, and long-term memories. Their findings, which appear in the journal the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, offer new insights into the molecular architecture of memory formation and, with it, a better roadmap for developing therapeutic interventions for related afflictions.
"Our findings provide a deeper understanding of how memories are created," explained the research team leader Thomas Carew, a professor in NYU's Center for Neural Science and dean of NYU's Faculty of Arts and Science. "Memory formation is not simply a matter of turning molecules on and off; rather, it results from a complex temporal and spatial relationship of molecular interaction and movement."
Neuroscientists have previously uncovered different aspects of molecular signaling relevant to the formation of memories. But less understood is the spatial relationship between molecules and when they are active during this process.
To address this question, the researchers studied the neurons in Aplysia californica, the California sea slug. Aplysia is a model organism that is quite powerful for this type of research because its neurons are 10 to 50 times larger than those of higher organisms, such as vertebrates, and it possesses a relatively small network of neurons—characteristics that readily allow for the examination of molecular signaling during memory formation. Moreover, its coding mechanism for memories is highly conserved in evolution, and thus is similar to that of mammals, making it an appropriate model for understanding how this process works in humans.
The scientists focused their study on two molecules, MAPK and PKA, which earlier research has shown to be involved in many forms of memory and synaptic plasticity—that is, changes in the brain that occur after neuronal interaction. But less understood was how and where these molecules interacted.
To explore this, the researchers subjected the sea slugs to sensitization training, which induces increased behavioral reflex responsiveness following mild tail shock, or in this study, mild activation of the nerve form the tail. They then examined the subsequent molecular activity of both MAPK and PKA. Both molecules have been shown to be involved in the formation of memory for sensitization, but the nature of their interaction is less clear.
What they found was MAPK and PKA coordinate their activity both spatially and temporally in the formation of memories. Specifically, in the formation of intermediate-term (i.e., hours) and long-term (i.e., days) memories, both MAPK and PKA activity occur, with MAPK spurring PKA action. By contrast, for short-term memories (i.e., less than 30 minutes), only PKA is active, with no involvement of MAPK.
New York University: http://www.nyu.edu
This press release was posted to serve as a topic for discussion. Please comment below. We try our best to only post press releases that are associated with peer reviewed scientific literature. Critical discussions of the research are appreciated. If you need help finding a link to the original article, please contact us on twitter or via e-mail.
When you’re the size of a human, you worry about lions and tigers and bears. But if you’re …
An amateur fossil hunter has unearthed a 7ft skeleton of a carnivorous marine reptile on a beach in south Wales.
European regulators have recommended approval of the first medicine containing stem cells to treat a rare condition caused by burns to the eye.
Ecologists say birds could hear the oncoming storm from over 100 miles away
Marine scientists plumbing the deepest part of the ocean sent microphones and collection probes baited with chicken to the bottom of a trench near Guam. Now they watch, wait ... and listen.
Lead author of two retracted papers resigns her position after failing to reproduce new approach to generating stem cells
The winners of the 2014 Olympus BioScapes Digital Imaging Competition capture a rat brain, the mouthparts of a vampire moth and other small wonders
By analysing brain activity linked to hand and arm movements, a team has created a robotic arm that a paralysed woman can control with her thoughts
Adding laser tips to ordinary shoes can improve the stride and pace of people with Parkinson's disease
Technique could someday help repair injuries