New molecular discovery may help identify drug therapies to prevent dementia

January 10, 2017, Rutgers University
The hippocampus is a region of the brain largely responsible for memory formation. Credit: Salk Institute

Rutgers University scientists have discovered a molecular pathway in the brain that may help provide answers to long-term memory problems in the elderly and aid researchers in identifying drug-based therapies to prevent dementia.

"Memory decline brings much suffering to the affected individuals and their families and leads to staggering social and economic costs," said Gleb Shumyatsky, an associate professor in the Department of Genetics in the School of Arts and Sciences, who co-authored the study with former postdoctoral researcher Shusaku Uchida. "This work may provide scientists with answers and therapeutic help in the future for those going through normal aging or suffering from dementia."

The research published on January 10 in Cell Reports focuses on the signaling pathways in the hippocampus, the area of the brain where learning and takes place. The scientists looked at how information is transmitted from the synapses - the point where neurons connect and communicate with each other - to the nuclei in the hippocampal neuronal cells.

Using laboratory mice, researchers found that a protein (CRTC1) enhances memory by controlling gene expression - a process that allows a cell to respond to a changing environment within the body and acts as both an on and off switch that controls when proteins are made and the levels at which they are released.

"There is a potential that this could help with memory in the human brain," said Shumyatsky. "We found that the longer the CRTC1 stays in the mouse brain, the stronger the memory."

Using two behavioral paradigms - fear conditioning and object location learning - Rutgers scientists found that the mice that received a longer period of training expressed a higher activity of the CTRC1 protein, had more robust and stronger gene transcription and exhibited better long-term memory.

The research also discovered that the CRTC1 protein activates the (FGF1) gene that controls essential brain cell functions, growth and survival and is important for tissue maintenance, repair and regeneration. This activation also linked the intensity of learning to enhanced memory strength.

Although is part of the normal aging process, it manifests more severely in those with like Alzheimer's. This, in part, is due to a breakdown of the brain's communication networks that are critical for cognitive function.

The Rutgers study is important to the research being done into age-related memory loss and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's because no consistent biological deficits have been identified as a target for the treatment. Scientists like Shumyatsky believe that understanding the molecular pathways in the will help find better treatments for humans.

"The memory process is very much the same in both human and mouse brains," said Shumyatsky "Our group has been unraveling molecular mechanisms that maintain and improve memory, and what our research tells us is that there are different answers to controlling and improving memory."

Explore further: Key mechanism behind brain connectivity and memory revealed

Related Stories

Key mechanism behind brain connectivity and memory revealed

September 2, 2016
Memory loss in mice has been successfully reversed following the discovery of new information about a key mechanism underlying the loss of nerve connectivity in the brain, say UCL researchers.

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 ...

Untangling a cause of memory loss in neurodegenerative diseases

October 13, 2016
Tauopathies are a group of neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer's disease that are characterized by the deposition of aggregates of the tau protein inside brain cells. A new study reveals that the cutting of tau ...

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

June 9, 2014
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 ...

New clues about the aging brain's memory functions

June 29, 2016
A European study led by Umeå University Professor Lars Nyberg, has shown that the dopamine D2 receptor is linked to the long-term episodic memory, which function often reduces with age and due to dementia. This new insight ...

Study identifies memory suppressor gene, may hold key to new Alzheimer's treatments

April 14, 2016
While research has identified hundreds of genes required for normal memory formation, genes that suppress memory are of special interest because they offer insights into how the brain prioritizes and manages all of the information, ...

Recommended for you

Research reveals atomic-level changes in ALS-linked protein

January 18, 2018
For the first time, researchers have described atom-by-atom changes in a family of proteins linked to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a group of brain disorders known as frontotemporal dementia and degenerative diseases ...

Fragile X finding shows normal neurons that interact poorly

January 18, 2018
Neurons in mice afflicted with the genetic defect that causes Fragile X syndrome (FXS) appear similar to those in healthy mice, but these neurons fail to interact normally, resulting in the long-known cognitive impairments, ...

How your brain remembers what you had for dinner last night

January 17, 2018
Confirming earlier computational models, researchers at University of California San Diego and UC San Diego School of Medicine, with colleagues in Arizona and Louisiana, report that episodic memories are encoded in the hippocampus ...

Recording a thought's fleeting trip through the brain

January 17, 2018
University of California, Berkeley neuroscientists have tracked the progress of a thought through the brain, showing clearly how the prefrontal cortex at the front of the brain coordinates activity to help us act in response ...

Midbrain 'start neurons' control whether we walk or run

January 17, 2018
Locomotion comprises the most fundamental movements we perform. It is a complex sequence from initiating the first step, to stopping when we reach our goal. At the same time, locomotion is executed at different speeds to ...

Miles Davis is not Mozart: The brains of jazz and classical pianists work differently

January 16, 2018
Keith Jarret, world-famous jazz pianist, once answered in an interview when asked if he would ever be interested in doing a concert where he would play both jazz and classical music: "No, that's hilarious. [...] It's like ...

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.