Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Lifelong Memories Linked to Stable Nerve Connections

07.12.2009
Our ability to learn new information and adapt to changes in our daily environment, as well as to retain lifelong memories, appears to lie in the minute junctions where nerve cells communicate, according to a new study by NYU Langone Medicine Center researchers. The study is published online this week in the journal Nature.

The scientists, led by Wen-Biao Gan, PhD, associate professor of physiology and neuroscience at NYU School of Medicine, discovered that a delicate balancing act occurs in the brain where neuronal connections are continually being formed, eliminated, and maintained. This feat allows the brain to integrate new information without jeopardizing already established memories, the new study suggests.

Using a powerful optical imaging technique called two-photon microscopy, Dr. Gan and colleagues at The Helen and Martin Kimmel Center for Biology and Medicine at the Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine, viewed the precise changes that take place at synapses, the junctions where nerve cells communicate, in the wake of learning a new task or being exposed to a novel situation. New knowledge, explains Dr. Gan, prompts alterations in the dendritic spines, the knobby protrusions along the branching ends of nerve cells. With learning, spines are gained and others lost.

“We’ve known for a long time that the brain remodels after learning,” says Dr. Gan “Our studies show that the brain does this in two ways: by adding a tiny fraction of new connections to the brain’s neural circuitry and eliminating old ones.”

Dr. Gan and his associates tracked changes in the brains of mice before and after experiencing a new stimulus (a string of beads hung at different places along the cage) or learning a new task (running on an accelerated spinning wheel). To open a window to the brain, the team shaved away the skull over the animals’ cortex in which the nerve dendrites were lit up by fluorescent proteins. Then, using a two-photon microscope, they snapped photos of the dendrites after the animals learned to stay on the running wheel or encountered the newly positioned beads. The team began photographing the mice when they were a month old and followed them through adulthood.

When the team compared the photos across the months, they observed new spines emerging in response to the beads’ placement or learning to run on the wheel. They saw, too, that as the mice became improved at spinning the wheel, a minute fraction of new spines continued to persist. The researchers also noted that at the same time as these new and lasting spines were created, a corresponding number of older spines that had been formed early in the animals’ development before the experiment began, disappeared.

Despite the rise and fall of dendritic spines, the animals’ brain circuitry remained overwhelmingly secure. A mouse neuron can carry ten thousand spines on its dendrites. Over months, about 100 spines were either gained or lost on each nerve cell after exposure to new experience while the majority of existing spines are maintained.

The study gives a clue as to how it is possible for humans, who have hundreds of thousands of spines on one neuron, to live each day, constantly experiencing and learning new things, without losing existing memories. “The brain is a dynamic and stable organ,” says Dr. Gan.

The authors of the new study are Dr. Gan and two postdoctoral fellows in his laboratory, Dr. Guang Yang and Dr. Feng Pan.

The study was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, a Dart Foundation Fellowship and an Ellison/AFAR Postdoctoral fellowship.

About NYU Langone Medical Center
NYU Langone Medical Center is one of the nation's premier centers of excellence in healthcare, biomedical research, and medical education. For over 168 years, NYU physicians and researchers have made countless contributions to the practice and science of health care. Today the Medical Center consists of NYU School of Medicine, including the Smilow Research Center, the Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine, and the Sackler Institute of Graduate Biomedical Sciences; the three hospitals of NYU Hospitals Center, Tisch Hospital, a 705-bed acute-care general hospital, Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine, the first and largest facility of its kind, and NYU Hospital for Joint Diseases, a leader in musculoskeletal care; and such major programs as the NYU Cancer Institute, the NYU Child Study Center, and the Hassenfeld Children's Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders.

Dorie Klissas | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.nyumc.org

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Obstructing the ‘inner eye’
07.07.2017 | Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena

nachricht Drone vs. truck deliveries: Which create less carbon pollution?
31.05.2017 | University of Washington

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: 3-D scanning with water

3-D shape acquisition using water displacement as the shape sensor for the reconstruction of complex objects

A global team of computer scientists and engineers have developed an innovative technique that more completely reconstructs challenging 3D objects. An ancient...

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

Im Focus: The proton precisely weighted

What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.

To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...

Im Focus: On the way to a biological alternative

A bacterial enzyme enables reactions that open up alternatives to key industrial chemical processes

The research team of Prof. Dr. Oliver Einsle at the University of Freiburg's Institute of Biochemistry has long been exploring the functioning of nitrogenase....

Im Focus: The 1 trillion tonne iceberg

Larsen C Ice Shelf rift finally breaks through

A one trillion tonne iceberg - one of the biggest ever recorded -- has calved away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica, after a rift in the ice,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Closing the Sustainability Circle: Protection of Food with Biobased Materials

21.07.2017 | Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

The technology with a feel for feelings

12.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Ultrathin device harvests electricity from human motion

24.07.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Scientists announce the quest for high-index materials

24.07.2017 | Materials Sciences

ADIR Project: Lasers Recover Valuable Materials

24.07.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>