Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Heidelberg Researchers Identify “Switch” for Long-term Memory

09.07.2013
Heidelberg Researchers Identify “Switch” for Long-term Memory
Calcium signal in neuronal cell nuclei initiates the formation of lasting memories

Neurobiologists at Heidelberg University have identified calcium in the cell nucleus to be a cellular “switch” responsible for the formation of long-term memory. Using the fruit fly “Drosophila melanogaster” as a model, the team led by Prof. Dr. Christoph Schuster and Prof. Dr. Hilmar Bading investigates how the brain learns.


Brain of the “Drosophila melanogaster” fruit fly with its association and learning centres, called mushroom bodies, marked in green. A subgroup of the marked neurons carries out a switching function that creates long-term memory in the flies by controlling the production of "memory proteins" using a nuclear calcium signal.
Jan-Marek Weislogel, IZN, Heidelberg University, and Shamprasad Varija Raghu, Neuroscience Research Partnership, Singapore. With permission of Science Signaling/AAAS.

The researchers wanted to know which signals in the brain were responsible for building long-term memory and for forming the special proteins involved. The results of the research were published in the journal “Science Signaling”.

The team from the Interdisciplinary Center for Neurosciences (IZN) measured nuclear calcium levels with a fluorescent protein in the association and learning centres of the insect’s brain to investigate any changes that might occur during the learning process. Their work on the fruit fly revealed brief surges in calcium levels in the cell nuclei of certain neurons during learning. It was this calcium signal that researchers identified as the trigger of a genetic programme that controls the production of “memory proteins”. If this nuclear calcium switch is blocked, the flies are unable to form long-term memory.

Prof. Schuster explains that insects and mammals separated evolutionary paths approximately 600 million years ago. In spite of this sizable gap, certain vitally important processes such as memory formation use similar cellular mechanisms in humans, mice and flies, as the researchers’ experiments were able to prove. “These commonalities indicate that the formation of long-term memory is an ancient phenomenon already present in the shared ancestors of insects and vertebrates. Both species probably use similar cellular mechanisms for forming long-term memory, including the nuclear calcium switch”, Schuster continues.

The IZN researchers assume that similar switches based on nuclear calcium signals may have applications in other areas – presumably whenever organisms need to adapt to new conditions over the long term. “Pain memory, for example, or certain protective and survival functions of neurons use this nuclear calcium switch, too”, says Prof. Bading. This cellular switch may no longer work as well in the elderly, which Bading believes may explain the decline in memory typically observed in old age. Thus, the discoveries by the Heidelberg neurobiologists open up new perspectives for the treatment of age- and illness-related changes in brain functions.

Interdisciplinary Center for Neurosciences:
http://www.izn.uni-heidelberg.de
Prof. Bading’s research group:
http://www.uni-heidelberg.de/izn/researchgroups/bading
Prof. Schuster’s research group:
http://www.uni-heidelberg.de/izn/researchgroups/schuster
Original publication:
Weislogel, J. M., Bengtson, C. P., Müller, M. K., Hörtzsch, J. N., Bujard, M., Schuster, C. M., and Bading, H.: Requirement for Nuclear Calcium Signaling in Drosophila Long-Term Memory. Science Signaling 6 (274), ra33, 07 May 2013, doi: 10.1126/scisignal.2003598
Contact:
Prof. Dr. Hilmar Bading / Prof. Dr. Christoph Schuster
Interdisciplinary Center for Neurosciences
Phone: +49 06221 54-8218 / +49 6221 54-8300
hilmar.bading@uni-hd.de / schuster@nbio.uni-heidelberg.de
Communications and Marketing
Press Office, phone: +49 6221 54-2311
presse@rektorat.uni-heidelberg.de

Marietta Fuhrmann-Koch | idw
Further information:
http://www.uni-heidelberg.de

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht More genes are active in high-performance maize
19.01.2018 | Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn

nachricht How plants see light
19.01.2018 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Artificial agent designs quantum experiments

On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.

We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...

Im Focus: Scientists decipher key principle behind reaction of metalloenzymes

So-called pre-distorted states accelerate photochemical reactions too

What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...

Im Focus: The first precise measurement of a single molecule's effective charge

For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.

Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...

Im Focus: Paradigm shift in Paris: Encouraging an holistic view of laser machining

At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.

No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...

Im Focus: Room-temperature multiferroic thin films and their properties

Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.

Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

10th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Münster, 10-11 April 2018

08.01.2018 | Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Let the good tubes roll

19.01.2018 | Materials Sciences

How cancer metastasis happens: Researchers reveal a key mechanism

19.01.2018 | Health and Medicine

Meteoritic stardust unlocks timing of supernova dust formation

19.01.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>