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Making Memories Last
Posted: Monday, January 30, 2012 4:00 PM
Joined: 12/6/2011
Posts: 3326

From the Alzheimer's Daily News:

(Source: Stowers Institute for Medical Research) - Memories are maintained by connections between neurons (synapses) in our brains . But how do these synapses stay strong and keep memories alive for decades? Neuroscientists at the Stowers Institute for Medical Research have discovered a major clue: Hardy, self-copying clusters or oligomers of a synapse protein - an essential ingredient for the formation of long-term memory.

The finding supports a surprising new theory about memory, and may have a profound impact on explaining other oligomer-linked functions and diseases in the brain, including Alzheimer's disease and prion diseases.

"Self-sustaining populations of oligomers located at synapses may be the key to the long-term synaptic changes that underlie memory fact, the finding hints that oligomers play a wider role in the brain than has been thought," said Kausik Si, Ph.D.

The findings may help scientists understand disease-causing oligomers too. Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Huntington's disease, as well as prion diseases such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, all involve the spread in the brain of apparently toxic oligomers of various proteins. One such protein, strongly implicated in Alzheimer's disease, is amyloid beta. Si's work hints at the possibility that oligomer-linked diseases are relatively common in the brain because the brain evolved to be relatively hospitable to certain proteins and functional oligomers, and thus has fewer mechanisms for keeping rogue oligomers under control.

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