• ucsantabarbara twitter avatar
    From theory to practice, this week's #GauchoCourse prepares soon-to-be professors for the real world. https://t.co/DAj0nUIwAw
    6 hours 39 min ago
  • UCSBgauchos twitter avatar
    MVB: Gauchos snap 7 match losing streak with emphatic sweep of UCSD on Friday night. RECAP >>>… https://t.co/Cee1KbeXOh
    16 hours 30 min ago
  • UCSBgauchos twitter avatar
    Women's Tennis: UC Santa Barb. 2, Oregon 5 (Final)
    18 hours 58 min ago
  • UCSBgauchos twitter avatar
    WBB: Gauchos Face First-Place UC Davis Looking to End Two-Game Skid https://t.co/wRGTYxtxDC
    19 hours 59 min ago
  • ucsantabarbara twitter avatar
    Called “tama” or “tamashii,” the belief in spirits of deceased ancestors goes back centuries. https://t.co/KUJg2oGc7k
    20 hours 24 min ago
  • UCSBgauchos twitter avatar
    Muno (2 H, 2 R), Corey (3-4, 2 R), Davis (7 IP, 2 ER, 10 K) lead @UCSB_Baseball to 7-4 win in home opener! RECAP >>… https://t.co/I32qmDSuZB
    20 hours 52 min ago
  • ArtsandLectures twitter avatar
    Fascinating! #Sapiens + #HomoDeus author #YuvalNoahHarari predicts humankind’s future: https://t.co/5P25xtpyRQ via… https://t.co/TIAzFchgfI
    21 hours 24 min ago
  • ArtsandLectures twitter avatar
    RT @AshleyyySb: Only on Twitter to continue to absorb all insight and research from @DrSidMukherjee || Stoked to attend his lecture @Artsan
    21 hours 39 min ago
  • brenucsb twitter avatar
    Does location affect how pines react to climate change? Bren PhD student Ian McCullough shares answer #BrenPhDTalks https://t.co/6zVyQetm2t
    21 hours 45 min ago
  • UCSBgauchos twitter avatar
    Softball: Fifth-Inning Dooms Gauchos in 6-4 Loss to Purdue https://t.co/XWYKVl9UPx
    21 hours 46 min ago
  • UCSB_GradPost twitter avatar
    Register for 2017 Graduate Division Commencement before May 5! https://t.co/IDP1WGLGik #UCSB #ucsbgradpost
    21 hours 53 min ago
  • brenucsb twitter avatar
    Bren PhD student Jessica Perkins' research answers: "What Makes an #LCA Study Influential?" https://t.co/HatfwVTKV4 #BrenPhDTalks
    21 hours 54 min ago
  • brenucsb twitter avatar
    Runsheng Song shares strategies to estimate chemicals' life cycle inventories with little data #BrenPhDTalks https://t.co/gUsRney8nC #LCI
    22 hours 5 min ago
  • brenucsb twitter avatar
    #BrenPhDTalks: Bren PhD student Ying Wang looks at nanomaterial accumulation in soybeans & nitrogen-fixing bacteria https://t.co/85xiy6EmAY
    22 hours 14 min ago
  • brenucsb twitter avatar
    Bren PhD student Yuwei Qin uses US potato production to show how to model marginal production in #LCA https://t.co/jDyW0Fkzbx #BrenPhDTalks
    22 hours 24 min ago

UCSB Scientists Discover How the Brain Encodes Memories at a Cellular Level

Wednesday, December 23, 2009 - 16:00
Santa Barbara, CA

Scientists at UC Santa Barbara have made a major discovery in how the brain encodes memories. The finding, published in the December 24 issue of the journal Neuron, could eventually lead to the development of new drugs to aid memory.

The team of scientists is the first to uncover a central process in encoding memories that occurs at the level of the synapse, where neurons connect with each other.

"When we learn new things, when we store memories, there are a number of things that have to happen," said senior author Kenneth S. Kosik, co-director and Harriman Chair in Neuroscience Research, at UCSB's Neuroscience Research Institute. Kosik is a leading researcher in the area of Alzheimer's disease.

"One of the most important processes is that the synapses –– which cement those memories into place –– have to be strengthened," said Kosik. "In strengthening a synapse you build a connection, and certain synapses are encoding a memory. Those synapses have to be strengthened so that memory is in place and stays there. Strengthening synapses is a very important part of learning. What we have found appears to be one part of how that happens."

Part of strengthening a synapse involves making new proteins. Those proteins build the synapse and make it stronger. Just like with exercise, when new proteins must build up muscle mass, synapses must also make more protein when recording memories. In this research, the regulation and control of that process was uncovered.

The production of new proteins can only occur when the RNA that will make the required proteins is turned on. Until then, the RNA is "locked up" by a silencing molecule, which is a micro RNA. The RNA and micro RNA are part of a package that includes several other proteins.

"When something comes into your brain –– a thought, some sort of stimulus, you see something interesting, you hear some music –– synapses get activated," said Kosik. "What happens next is really interesting, but to follow the pathway our experiments moved to cultured neurons. When synapses got activated, one of the proteins wrapped around that silencing complex gets degraded."

When the signal comes in, the wrapping protein degrades or gets fragmented. Then the RNA is suddenly free to synthesize a new protein.

"One reason why this is interesting is that scientists have been perplexed for some time as to why, when synapses are strengthened, you need to have proteins degrade and also make new proteins," said Kosik. "You have the degradation of proteins going on side by side with the synthesis of new proteins. So we have now resolved this paradox. We show that protein degradation and synthesis go hand in hand. The degradation permits the synthesis to occur. That's the elegant scientific finding that comes out of this."

The scientists were able to see some of the specific proteins that are involved in synthesis. Two of these –– CaM Kinase and Lypla –– are identified in the paper.

One of the approaches used by the scientists in the experiment was to take live neuron cells from rats and look at them under a high-resolution microscope. The team was able to see the synapses and the places where proteins are being made.

The first author on the paper is Sourav Banerjee, a postdoctoral fellow with the Neuroscience Research Institute and the Department of Cellular, Molecular, and Developmental Biology. The other author is Pierre Neveu, who is affiliated with the Neuroscience Research Institute and the Kavli Institute of Theoretical Physics.