Common fruit fly key to discovery as to how memories are written into brain cells
Scientists have identified a key molecule responsible for triggering the chemical processes in our brain linked to our formation of memories. The findings, published in the journal Frontiers in Neural Circuits, reveal a new target for therapeutic interventions to reverse the devastating effects of memory loss.
The BBSRC-funded research, led by scientists at the University of Bristol, aimed to better understand the mechanisms that enable us to form memories by studying the molecular changes in the hippocampus — the part of the brain involved in learning.
Previous studies have shown that our ability to learn and form memories is due to an increase in synaptic communication called Long Term Potentiation [LTP]. This communication is initiated through a chemical process triggered by calcium entering brain cells and activating a key enzyme called ‘Ca2+ responsive kinase’ [CaMKII]. Once this protein is activated by calcium it triggers a switch in its own activity enabling it to remain active even after the calcium has gone. This special ability of CaMKII to maintain its own activity has been termed ‘the molecular memory switch’.