Making Memories Last: Prion-Like Protein Plays Key Role in Storing Long-Term MemoriesRelated: Evolution May be a Process that is Indpendent of Genetic Material: 'Lifeless' Prions Capable of Evolutionary Change and Adaptation
ScienceDaily (Jan. 27, 2012) — Memories in our brains are maintained by connections between neurons called "synapses." But how do these synapses stay strong and keep memories alive for decades? Neuroscientists at the Stowers Institute for Medical Research have discovered a major clue from a study in fruit flies: Hardy, self-copying clusters or oligomers of a synapse protein are an essential ingredient for the formation of long-term memory
The finding supports a surprising new theory about memory, and may have a profound impact on explaining other oligomer-linked functions and diseases in the brain, including Alzheimer's disease and prion diseases.
"Self-sustaining populations of oligomers located at synapses may be the key to the long-term synaptic changes that underlie memory; in fact, our finding hints that oligomers play a wider role in the brain than has been thought," says Kausik Si, Ph.D., an associate investigator at the Stowers Institute, and senior author of the new study, which is published in the January 27, 2012 online issue of the journal Cell.