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.
After a severe brain injury, some people remain in a vegetative or minimally conscious state, unable to speak or move intentionally, and apparently unaware of the world around them. But in recent years, neuroscientists have found signs that some of these patients may still be conscious, at least to a degree. Now researchers have used a branch of mathematics called graph theory to search for neural signatures of consciousness.
Few parasitoids are more bizarre or disturbing than the wasps of the genus Glyptapanteles, whose females inject their eggs into living caterpillars. Once inside, the larvae mature, feeding on the caterpillar’s body fluids before gnawing through its skin en masse and emerging into the light of day. And despite the trauma, not only does the caterpillar survive---initially at least---but the larvae proceed to mind-control it, turning their host into a bodyguard that protects them as they spin their cocoons and finish maturing. Then, finally, the caterpillar starves to death, but only after the tiny wasps emerge from their cocoons and fly away.
From their new book A History of Life in 100 Fossils, Paul Taylor and Aaron O'Dea share the story of 10 incredible fossils
We love origin stories. When we see successful groups of animals and plants, we wonder where they came …
First research of its kind shows that tasers could impair a person's memory and thought process
Sometimes the most fascinating animals are the ones that are no longer with us. The oddly named sthenurine is no exception.
Australian banded stilts use mysterious cues to know when to head toward ephemeral lakes in the country’s otherwise dry interior
The intriguing story of how whale evolution was unpicked is told in The Walking Whales, revealing what it's like to be a globe-trotting palaeontologist
Cells derived from embryos appear to have improved vision in more than half of the 18 patients who had become legally blind because of two progressive, currently incurable eye diseases.
Oil rigs are rarely lauded by conservationists, but fish seem to love them – they have more fish living around them than natural rocky reefs do