Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Lack of specific brain protein causes marked deficits in learning, memory


A protein involved in the release of neurotransmitters in the brain is essential to learning and memory in mice, researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas have found.

A study published today in Neuron offers the first evidence that lack of this protein – known as RIM1 alpha – causes profound deficits in the learning process. The discovery is a major step in understanding the molecular events that underlie learning and memory – complex processes that can be impaired in human neuropsychiatric disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, mental retardation and schizophrenia.

"We found that when you delete this molecule, the mice essentially become incredibly stupid," said Dr. Thomas Südhof, director of both the Center for Basic Neuroscience and the C. Vincent Prothro Center for Research in Basic Neuroscience at UT Southwestern and co-author of the paper.

Researchers hope that further study of the protein’s role in learning and memory will lead to potential treatments for some neuropsychiatric disorders.

"This is the first indication that these proteins could be good targets for treatment of specific brain disorders," said Dr. Craig Powell, assistant professor of psychiatry and neurology at UT Southwestern and the study’s lead author.

The researchers compared behaviors of normal mice to those of three sets of genetically altered mice – each of which was missing a specific protein involved in releasing neurotransmitters. The mice lacking the RIM1 alpha protein, unlike the others, lacked the ability to learn the location of an escape platform in a pool of water despite repeated attempts over several days.

Dr. Eric Nestler, chairman of psychiatry at UT Southwestern and senior author of the study, said another notable finding was that, while the other two sets of genetically altered mice displayed some of the same cellular abnormalities as the RIM1 alpha mice, these other mice exhibited no behavioral deficits.

"The brain was able to compensate for the loss of these other two proteins, but it was not able to compensate for the lack of RIM1 alpha," Dr. Nestler said. "That tells us that RIM1 alpha is involved in so many important functions that, when it is missing, gross changes in behavior occur."

Proteins involved in the release of neurotransmitters are known as presynaptic proteins. In the past, postsynaptic proteins, as opposed to presynaptic proteins, were shown to play an active role in learning and memory. Postsynaptic proteins receive the neurotransmitters released by presynaptic proteins.

Dr. Nestler said that some of the abnormalities in learning in the mice lacking RIM1 alpha are reminiscent of symptoms commonly seen in people with schizophrenia.

"This could give us new insight into what’s going wrong in the brains of people with schizophrenia – a disorder that is still not at all well understood," Dr. Nestler said.

These studies were funded via grants from the National Institute of Mental Health, The National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Rachel Horton | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht First time-lapse footage of cell activity during limb regeneration
25.10.2016 | eLife

nachricht Phenotype at the push of a button
25.10.2016 | Institut für Pflanzenbiochemie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Ice shelf vibrations cause unusual waves in Antarctic atmosphere

25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

Fluorescent holography: Upending the world of biological imaging

25.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Etching Microstructures with Lasers

25.10.2016 | Process Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>