Molecular mechanisms of memory formation revelaed

ScienceDaily | 2/8/2018 | Staff
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The researchers found that a protein called Npas4, previously identified as a master controller of gene expression triggered by neuronal activity, controls the strength of connections between neurons in the CA3 and those in another part of the hippocampus called the dentate gyrus. Without Npas4, long-term memories cannot form.

"Our study identifies an experience-dependent synaptic mechanism for memory encoding in CA3, and provides the first evidence for a molecular pathway that selectively controls it," says Yingxi Lin, an associate professor of brain and cognitive sciences and a member of MIT's McGovern Institute for Brain Research.

Lin - Author - Study - Feb - Issue

Lin is the senior author of the study, which appears in the Feb. 8 issue of Neuron. The paper's lead author is McGovern Institute research scientist Feng-Ju (Eddie) Weng.

Neuroscientists have long known that the brain encodes memories by altering the strength of synapses, or connections between neurons. This requires interactions of many proteins found in both presynaptic neurons, which send information about an event, and postsynaptic neurons, which receive the information.

Neurons - CA3 - Region - Role - Formation

Neurons in the CA3 region play a critical role in the formation of contextual memories, which are memories that link an event with the location where it took place, or with other contextual information such as timing or emotions. These neurons receive synaptic inputs from three different pathways, and scientists have hypothesized that one of these inputs, from the dentate gyrus, is critical for encoding new contextual memories. However, the mechanism of how this information is encoded was not known.

In a study published in 2011, Lin and colleagues found that Npas4, a gene that is turned on immediately following new experiences, appears to act as a master controller of the program of gene expression required for long-term memory formation. They also found that Npas4 is most active in the CA3 region of the hippocampus during learning. This...
(Excerpt) Read more at: ScienceDaily
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