Neuroscientists find cellular mechanism that shapes your memories

September 12, 2011

(Medical Xpress) -- VU University Amsterdam neuroscientists discovered what happens in your nerve cells upon memory recall, as appeared in this week's advance online publication of Nature Neuroscience. This is important for experimental-based therapies relying on memory recall to permanently rewrite fearful and traumatic memories.

Upon retrieval, memories return to a receptive state of several hours, during which their strength is modified to maintain their relevance. Even more so, retrieved memories can be updated with new (non-fearful) information in order to alter their content on the long-term, resulting in the fading of these memories. VU neuroscientist Dr. Sabine Spijker and her team discovered a prime explaining that memories are not graved in stone, but rather that they are adapted every time you remember them.

“We showed that this memory adaptation depends on a receptor molecule, a protein enabling neuronal communication using the neurotransmitter ’ says Sabine Spijker. “This adaptive process can be exploited in several forms of psychotherapy aimed at ‘rewriting’ memories to treat disorders related to .”

The researchers showed that during a period of only four hours after fear memory retrieval, glutamate receptors are gradually internalized from within the hippocampus, the brain area involved in the encoding of memory. This period mirrors the time window in which the memory is susceptible to modification. Spijker: “Blockade of the internalization of glutamate receptors resulted in enhanced expression of fear during the following hours to days after memory recall.”

Moreover, the researchers showed that the glutamate receptor internalization, provoked by retrieval of the , is at the basis of a new form of behavioral therapy – used successfully in rodents and humans – that prevents the return of fear in the long-term. Spijker: “We show that timing and place of a few glutamate receptor proteins might make the difference between a normal life, and a life in permanent fear.”

Explore further: Regulating the formation of fear extinction memory

More information: The article 'Retrieval-specific endocytosis of GluA2-AMPARs underlies adaptive reconsolidation of contextual fear' is published today in Nature Neuroscience.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Neuro chip records brain cell activity

October 26, 2016

Brain functions are controlled by millions of brain cells. However, in order to understand how the brain controls functions, such as simple reflexes or learning and memory, we must be able to record the activity of large ...

Can a brain-computer interface convert your thoughts to text?

October 25, 2016

Ever wonder what it would be like if a device could decode your thoughts into actual speech or written words? While this might enhance the capabilities of already existing speech interfaces with devices, it could be a potential ...

The current state of psychobiotics

October 25, 2016

Now that we know that gut bacteria can speak to the brain—in ways that affect our mood, our appetite, and even our circadian rhythms—the next challenge for scientists is to control this communication. The science of psychobiotics, ...

After blindness, the adult brain can learn to see again

October 25, 2016

More than 40 million people worldwide are blind, and many of them reach this condition after many years of slow and progressive retinal degeneration. The development of sophisticated prostheses or new light-responsive elements, ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Oct 11, 2011
To implement 'retrieval' you need an 'association' to implement 'retrieval'.

So how many associations are available to implement access and/or retrieval to memory?
Just one?
Just two?
How about for every association harboring the potential for retrieval and access to a memory, that is the change (you call this 'adaptation') the memory undergoes.
The memory 'adapts' to the association used to access it.
The association used for retrieval 'fades' or 'brightens' the memory.
...the time window in which the memory is susceptible to modification.

So all associations - all two!! of them must eagerly await their window of chance or time to do their modification?

I am going to stop here, Sabine. And avoid embarking on a voyage called ridicule.

Any glutamate deficiency or imbalance will CAUSE disorders even in non traumatized healthy subjects.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.