Published on January 18th, 2012 | by James Johnson0
MIT Scientists Discover Master Control Switch For Memory Creation
Every single time you experience something your brain creates a memory of that event by altering the connections between neurons by altering the genes inside of them. Now thanks to a better understanding of the brain researchers at MIT have managed to identify what they believe is the main control switch for memory creation.
Outlined in the Dec. 23 issue of Science the scientists hope that their research will help find the exact location of memories in the brain.
Researchers at MIT focused on the Npas4 gene which researchers had previously learned switches on the moment a new experience is created.
Npas4 appears to work by turning on various other genes that that adjust the strength of snyapses in the brain, creating new “internal wiring” so to speak.
To prove their study correct investigators used contextual fear conditioning in mice by providing them with a mild electric shock when they enter certain chambers, as they enter chambers where they have been shocked they would immediately freeze up.
During the earlier stages of a mouses learning process researchers say Npas4 turns on and regulates genes. The group also found that the Npas4 activation occurs primarily in the CA3 region of the hippocampus, the area of the brain that is required for quick learning.
At this time the MIT teams research is in its infancy and while they have identified several of the genes regulated by Npas4 they believe that ultimately many more genes, perhaps even hundreds could be affected by the Npas4 manipulation.
According to ScienceDaily:
Npas4 is a transcription factor, meaning it controls the copying of other genes into messenger RNA — the genetic material that carries protein-building instructions from the nucleus to the rest of the cell. The MIT experiments showed that Npas4 binds to the activation sites of specific genes and directs an enzyme called RNA polymerase II to start copying them.
As a control factor researchers stopped the Npas4 gene from operating in mice, ultimately they could not remember fearful conditioning as they had in the past.