Specific gene linked to adult growth of brain cells, learning and memory

June 9, 2014, City of Hope

Learning and memory are regulated by a region of the brain known as the hippocampus. New research from City of Hope has found that stimulating a specific gene could prompt growth – in adults – of new neurons in this critical region, leading to faster learning and better memories.

Understanding the link between this gene and the growth of new neurons – or neurogenesis – is an important step in developing therapies to address impaired learning and memory associated with and aging. The new research was published June 9 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study, which used an animal model, found that over-expressing the gene – a called TLX – resulted in smart, faster learners that retained information better and longer.

"Memory loss is a major health problem, both in diseases like Alzheimer's, but also just associated with aging," said Yanhong Shi, Ph.D., lead author of the study and a neurosciences professor at City of Hope. "In our study, we manipulated the expression of this receptor by introducing an additional copy of the gene – which obviously we cannot do outside the laboratory setting. The next step is to find the drug that can target this same gene."

The discovery creates a new potential strategy for improving cognitive performance in elderly patients and those who have a neurological disease or .

The bulk of the brain's development happens before birth, and there are periods –largely in childhood and – when the brain experiences bursts of new growth. In the past couple of decades, however, scientists have found evidence of neurogenesis in later adulthood – occurring mostly in the hippocampus, the region of the brain associated with learning and memory.

The new study is the first to firmly link the TLX gene to a potential for enhancing .

Researchers found that over-expression of the gene was actually associated with a physically larger brain, as well as the ability to learn a task quickly. Furthermore, over-expression of the gene was linked with the ability to remember, over a longer period of time, what had been learned.

Explore further: Investigators discover how key protein enhances memory and learning

More information: Nuclear receptor TLX stimulates hippocampal neurogenesis and enhances learning and memory in a transgenic mouse model, PNAS: www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1406779111

Related Stories

Investigators discover how key protein enhances memory and learning

May 2, 2014
Case Western Reserve researchers have discovered that a protein previously implicated in disease plays such a positive role in learning and memory that it may someday contribute to cures of cognitive impairments. The findings ...

Study of neurogenesis in mice may have solved mystery of childhood amnesia in humans

May 9, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—A team of researchers working at the University of Toronto in Canada may have found the answer to the question of why we humans tend to have little to no memory of the first few years of our lives. In their ...

Loss of memory in Alzheimer's mice models reversed through gene therapy

April 23, 2014
Alzheimer's disease is the leading cause of dementia and affects some 400,000 people in Spain alone. However, no effective cure has yet been found. One of the reasons for this is the lack of knowledge about the cellular mechanisms ...

New ideas change your brain cells: UBC research

February 24, 2014
A new University of British Columbia study identifies an important molecular change that occurs in the brain when we learn and remember.

Better cognition seen with gene variant carried by one in five

May 8, 2014
A scientific team led by the Gladstone Institutes and UC San Francisco has discovered that a common form of a gene already associated with long life also improves learning and memory, a finding that could have implications ...

New learning and memory neurons uncovered

April 11, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—A University of Queensland study has identified precisely when new neurons become important for learning.

Recommended for you

Cognitive training helps regain a younger-working brain

January 23, 2018
Relentless cognitive decline as we age is worrisome, and it is widely thought to be an unavoidable negative aspect of normal aging. Researchers at the Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas, however, ...

Lifting the veil on 'valence,' brain study reveals roots of desire, dislike

January 23, 2018
The amygdala is a tiny hub of emotions where in 2016 a team led by MIT neuroscientist Kay Tye found specific populations of neurons that assign good or bad feelings, or "valence," to experience. Learning to associate pleasure ...

Your brain responses to music reveal if you're a musician or not

January 23, 2018
How your brain responds to music listening can reveal whether you have received musical training, according to new Nordic research conducted in Finland (University of Jyväskylä and AMI Center) and Denmark (Aarhus University).

New neuron-like cells allow investigation into synthesis of vital cellular components

January 22, 2018
Neuron-like cells created from a readily available cell line have allowed researchers to investigate how the human brain makes a metabolic building block essential for the survival of all living organisms. A team led by researchers ...

Finding unravels nature of cognitive inflexibility in fragile X syndrome

January 22, 2018
Mice with the genetic defect that causes fragile X syndrome (FXS) learn and remember normally, but show an inability to learn new information that contradicts what they initially learned, shows a new study by a team of neuroscientists. ...

Epilepsy linked to brain volume and thickness differences

January 22, 2018
Epilepsy is associated with thickness and volume differences in the grey matter of several brain regions, according to new research led by UCL and the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

0 comments

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.