Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Seeing memories being made


Researchers at Technische Universität Kaiserslautern have developed a new tool that can identify and control memory neurons in fruit flies.

Researchers at Technische Universität Kaiserslautern have developed a novel tool for tracking and manipulating long-term memories as they are stored in the brains of fruit flies.

The researchers (left to right): Vanessa Bräuler, Benjamin Escribano, Dominique Siegenthaler and Prof. Dr. Jan Pielage

Credit: Koziel/TUK

The tool, reported recently in the journal PLOS Biology, will help investigate how memory works at the molecular level. Insights gained from the simpler fruit fly brain can later guide studies of human memory.

Sorting out the specific mechanisms that lead to long-term memory formation in the fly brain is a challenge. The subset of neurons thought to be responsible for long-term memory have the same DNA as other neurons, making it difficult to design a biomarker that only identifies the neurons encoding a specific memory.

To overcome this problem, Dominique Siegenthaler, Benjamin Escribano and Vanessa Bräuler in the group of Professor Jan Pielage of TUK’s Division of Neurobiology and Zoology developed a genetic tag that responds to memory formation.

The tag is called CRE-activity dependent memory engram label, or CAMEL, for short. It utilizes the DNA-binding site of the CRE binding protein (CREB2), which is essential for the formation of long-term memories. The tag lights up when neurons have an active CREB protein binding to DNA, highlighting only the neurons in the process of forming a memory.

“For the first time, we can specifically control the neurons forming long-term memories in Drosophila,” Pielage said.

As if seeing memory formation in action was not exciting enough, the tag does much more. The researchers can also use it to inhibit or activate the neurons’ activities.

“Now we have genetic access to get after the cellular and molecular changes occurring during long term memory formation,” Pielage said.

For example, the team used their tag to inhibit signaling from the long-term memory neurons in fruit flies. They trained the flies to associate an odor with an electric shock. The flies were still able to learn and recall memory in the first three hours after training, indicating that short-term memory formation was not affected by silencing these neurons.

However, the flies were unable to recall the memory for the next four days, the time period when the CREB protein makes and maintains long-term memory. Interestingly, seven days after training, when CREB and thus the tag was no longer active, the flies again avoided the odor. This demonstrated that silencing CAMEL neurons specifically disrupted long-term memory recall but not production or storage of the memory.

To see if memories could be turned on artificially, the group tried a different experiment. They trained flies to associate an odor with a shock and then used their tag to express a channel that activates neurons when exposed to red light. When giving the flies the choice to move either in areas with or without red light, more flies chose to move to dark areas. This indicated that red light activated the neurons containing the “bad” memory about the odor and electric shock.

“The flies essentially avoided recalling this bad memory,” Pielage said.

Taken together, these experiments indicate that this small subset of tagged neurons is sufficient and required to make long-term memories, Pielage explained. The team next plans to create artificial memories in the flies, in order to systematically investigate the cellular changes that happen when creating and recalling memories.

“We still don’t know what happens in the neurons to store long-term memories or how we can recall memories,” Pielage said.

The study „Selective suppression and recall of long-term memories in Drosophila“ is published in PLOS Biology.

Wissenschaftliche Ansprechpartner:

Prof. Dr. Jan Pielage
Abteilung Zoologie-Neurobiologie
Tel: 0631 205-2426
E-Mail: pielage(at)


The study „Selective suppression and recall of long-term memories in Drosophila“ is published in PLOS Biology.

Melanie Löw | Technische Universität Kaiserslautern
Further information:

Further reports about: Biology DNA Drosophila electric shock fly brain fruit flies long-term memory neurons

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Blocking the iron transport could stop tuberculosis
02.04.2020 | University of Zurich

nachricht Discovery of life in solid rock deep beneath sea may inspire new search for life on Mars
02.04.2020 | University of Tokyo

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: A sensational discovery: Traces of rainforests in West Antarctica

90 million-year-old forest soil provides unexpected evidence for exceptionally warm climate near the South Pole in the Cretaceous

An international team of researchers led by geoscientists from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) have now...

Im Focus: Blocking the Iron Transport Could Stop Tuberculosis

The bacteria that cause tuberculosis need iron to survive. Researchers at the University of Zurich have now solved the first detailed structure of the transport protein responsible for the iron supply. When the iron transport into the bacteria is inhibited, the pathogen can no longer grow. This opens novel ways to develop targeted tuberculosis drugs.

One of the most devastating pathogens that lives inside human cells is Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacillus that causes tuberculosis. According to the...

Im Focus: Physicist from Hannover Develops New Photon Source for Tap-proof Communication

An international team with the participation of Prof. Dr. Michael Kues from the Cluster of Excellence PhoenixD at Leibniz University Hannover has developed a new method for generating quantum-entangled photons in a spectral range of light that was previously inaccessible. The discovery can make the encryption of satellite-based communications much more secure in the future.

A 15-member research team from the UK, Germany and Japan has developed a new method for generating and detecting quantum-entangled photons at a wavelength of...

Im Focus: Junior scientists at the University of Rostock invent a funnel for light

Together with their colleagues from the University of Würzburg, physicists from the group of Professor Alexander Szameit at the University of Rostock have devised a “funnel” for photons. Their discovery was recently published in the renowned journal Science and holds great promise for novel ultra-sensitive detectors as well as innovative applications in telecommunications and information processing.

The quantum-optical properties of light and its interaction with matter has fascinated the Rostock professor Alexander Szameit since College.

Im Focus: Stem Cells and Nerves Interact in Tissue Regeneration and Cancer Progression

Researchers at the University of Zurich show that different stem cell populations are innervated in distinct ways. Innervation may therefore be crucial for proper tissue regeneration. They also demonstrate that cancer stem cells likewise establish contacts with nerves. Targeting tumour innervation could thus lead to new cancer therapies.

Stem cells can generate a variety of specific tissues and are increasingly used for clinical applications such as the replacement of bone or cartilage....

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

13th AKL – International Laser Technology Congress: May 4–6, 2022 in Aachen – Laser Technology Live already this year!

02.04.2020 | Event News

“4th Hybrid Materials and Structures 2020” takes place over the internet

26.03.2020 | Event News

Most significant international Learning Analytics conference will take place – fully online

23.03.2020 | Event News

Latest News

Scientists see energy gap modulations in a cuprate superconductor

02.04.2020 | Physics and Astronomy

AI finds 2D materials in the blink of an eye

02.04.2020 | Information Technology

New 3D cultured cells mimic the progress of NASH

02.04.2020 | Health and Medicine

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>