A group of Montreal researchers has discovered that GCN2, a protein in cells that inhibits the conversion of new information into long-term memory, may be a master regulator of the switch from short-term to long-term memory. Their paper Translational control of hippocampal synaptic plasticity and memory by the eIF2a kinase GCN2, which was published in the August 25th issue of the journal Nature, provides the first genetic evidence that protein synthesis is critical for the regulation of memory formation.
This new discovery is the fruit of an international collaboration. The work of McGill researchers Nahum Sonenberg, Karim Nader, Wayne Sossin and Claudio Cuello, Jean-Claude Lacaille and Nabil Seidah of the Université de Montréal, and David Ron of New York University sheds light on the mysterious workings of the hippocampus, a region of the brain responsible for learning and memory.
"Not all new information we acquire is stored as long-term memory," says Dr. Costa-Mattioli, a post-doctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Sonenberg, who spearheaded the research project. "For example, it takes most people a number of attempts to learn new things, such as memorizing a passage from a book. The first few times we may initially succeed in memorizing the passage, but the memory may not be stored completely in the brain and we will have to study the passage again."
In a series of experiments, the researchers demonstrated that mice bred without the GCN2 protein (known as transgenic mice) acquire new information that does not fade as easily as that of normal mice. This new information is more frequently converted into long-term memory. The researchers concluded that GCN2 may prevent new information from being stored in long-term memory.
Adds Dr.Jean-Claude Lacaille: "The process of switching to long-term memory in the brain requires both the activation of molecules that facilitate memory storage, and the silencing of proteins such as GCN2 that inhibit memory storage."
Although research on humans is still a distant possibility, the scientists believe their discovery may hold promise in the treatment of a variety of illnesses linked to memory. "The discovery of the role of GCN2 in long-term memory may help us develop targeted drugs designed to enhance memory in patients with memory loss due to illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease, where protein synthesis and memory are impaired," concludes Dr. Karim Nader.
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The WHO reports an estimated 429,000 malaria deaths each year. The disease mostly affects tropical and subtropical regions and in particular the African continent. The Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC teamed up with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME and the Institute of Tropical Medicine at the University of Tübingen for a new test method to detect malaria parasites in blood. The idea of the research project “NanoFRET” is to develop a highly sensitive and reliable rapid diagnostic test so that patient treatment can begin as early as possible.
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The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.
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Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.
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The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.
Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...
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