New Study Suggests Memories Are Stored In Cell Nucleus

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Written by Kelsey on June 16, 2015. Posted in Blog

Synapses

"It's like riding a bike!"

The familiar adage is often used to explain the ability to remember how to do something a person may have not done in years. Once the action is started, it becomes familiar and the task is again mastered as the person draws from his or her memories.

However, new research suggests that those memories may not, in fact, be stored where scientists originally thought, Scientific American reports.

Long-term memory is commonly understood to remain at synapses, the spaces that allow impulses to travel from one nerve cell to another. Strong neural connections that form a network create lasting memories and as such if synapses degrade, the memory will too. A new study suggests that fragments of memories may be stored in the cell nucleus.

Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, studied sea slugs' neurons in a petri dish. The neurons formed synapses over a few days after which scientists added serotonin to them causing the neurons to create even more synapses. The serotonin addition is the same process by which living creatures from long-term memories. They then repressed a memory-forming enzyme and checked back after 48 hours to find that the number of synapses was the same as their initial count but the synapses present were not the same. Several new and original synapses had retracted in order to maintain the original number of connections.

These findings suggest that the nerve cell body may know how many synapses it is supposed to form, which means it contains an extremely crucial part of memory.

Researchers then ran a similar trial on live sea slugs and concluded that memories could be erased, by way of destroying synapses, and reformed with a small reminder stimulus. This further suggests that information is not entirely stored in the synapse, but also in the cell's body.

The implication then becomes that it is possible for synapses to decline and then re-form as a memory grows stronger or fades.

Other scientists are highly intrigued by the results, but careful as to how they interpret the findings. If the cell body holds information, it's unclear how it would know where to place synapses or know their strength.

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