The study, available online and appearing in the February issue of Nature Neuroscience, is the first to identify the specific signal that establishes nonpermanent cellular memory and reveals how the brain holds temporary information.
It has implications for addiction, attention disorders and stress-related memory loss, said Dr. Don Cooper, assistant professor of psychiatry at UT Southwestern and senior author of the study conducted in mice.
Researchers have known that permanent memories are stored when the excitatory amino acid glutamate activates ion channels on nerve cells in the brain to reorganize and strengthen the cells’ connections with one another. But this process takes minutes to hours to turn on and off and is too slow to buffer, or temporarily hold, rapidly incoming information.
The researchers found that rapid-fire inputs less than a second long initiate a cellular memory process in single cells lasting as long as minute, a process called metabotropic glutamate transmission. This transmission in the most highly evolved brain region holds moment-to-moment information.
These cellular findings have implications for how the human brain stores rapidly changing information, like the temporary memory a card shark uses when counting cards in a game of Black Jack and, as casinos have figured out, it is the memory that is most sensitive to the disruptive effects of alcohol and noisy distractions, Dr. Cooper said.
“It’s more like RAM [random access memory] on a computer than memory stored on a disk,” Dr. Cooper said. “The memory on the disk is more permanent and you can go back and access the same information repeatedly. RAM memory is rewritable temporary storage that allows multitasking.”
The researchers identified in mice a specific metabotropic glutamate receptor called mGluR5 that, when turned on, starts a signaling cascade using calcium to hold a memory trace. This fast, short-term memory process happens inside individual cells; with long-term memory, additional proteins cause slow reorganization between cells in a network to establish a permanent memory.
Researchers examined brain cells from mice using nanoscale electrodes to measure the memory formation process.
To further understand how this short-term memory process relates to addiction, researchers applied the neurochemical dopamine to the memory buffer nerve cells. Dopamine is normally needed at an optimal level for an individual to focus attention and engage in fast decision-making memory, but drugs of abuse overload the brain with a surge of dopamine. In the study, researchers found that an experimental drug that activates a specific type of dopamine receptor “focused” the nerve cells, making the memory trace less susceptible to distraction.
When researchers employed an animal model of drug addiction using cocaine, they also found that repeated exposure to addictive levels of cocaine reduced memory trace activation in the memory buffer cells. When researchers then activated dopamine signaling in the “addicted” animals, essentially adding more dopamine to their systems, no focusing effect was observed.
“This makes sense because we know from human and animal models of addiction, when a decision using working memory has to be made, brain imaging shows a deficit in the same area of the brain we looked at,” Dr. Cooper said. “It all fits together.”
Researchers next plan to identify the ion channel responsible for holding and regenerating a memory trace. Their goal is to develop new pharmacological and genetic tools that will allow them to manipulate and possibly expand decision-making memory capacity.
“If we can identify and manipulate the molecular components of memory, we can develop drugs that boost the ability to maintain this memory trace to hopefully allow a person to complete tasks without being distracted,” Dr. Cooper said. “For the person addicted to drugs, we could strengthen this part of the brain involved with decision-making, allowing them to ignore impulses and weigh negative consequences of their behavior before they abuse drugs.”
Other researchers from UT Southwestern involved in the study in Dr. Cooper’s laboratory were Dr. Fang-Min Lu, assistant instructor of psychiatry; Melissa Fowler, a graduate student in psychiatry; Christopher Phillips, a medical student; and Emin Ozkan, student research assistant in physiology. Lead author Kyriaki Sidiropoulou from Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science’s Chicago Medical School and researchers from Ohio State University also participated in the study.
The study was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse; National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression; the Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation; and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Visit http://www.utsouthwestern.org/neurosciences to learn more about UT Southwestern’s clinical services in neurosciences, including psychiatry.
Dr. Don Cooper -- http://www.utsouthwestern.edu/findfac/professional/0,2356,65272,00.html
LaKisha Ladson | Newswise Science News
Further reports about: > Brain's Memory Buffer > Cells > addiction > amino acid glutamate > attention disorders > brain cell > metabotropic glutamate transmission > moment-to-moment information > multitasking > nerve cells > permanent memory > rapid-fire inputs > rapidly incoming information > stress-related memory loss > temporarily hold
Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery
20.01.2017 | GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung GmbH
Seeking structure with metagenome sequences
20.01.2017 | DOE/Joint Genome Institute
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
20.01.2017 | Life Sciences
20.01.2017 | Life Sciences