The preservation of our memories may depend upon the actions of a single protein, according to a new study published in the current issue of the journal Science.
The protein appears to chemically alter neurons and boost their ability to communicate with one another.
Scientists long have sought to describe all the biochemical events that lead to formation of long-term memories -- those that can be recalled after a day or more.
Researchers at Cornell University and co-authors of the Science paper had previously discovered the chemical recipe that produces a protein called mBDNF, or mature brain-derived neurotrophic factor. They believe the protein is a key player in the formation of memories.
In the Science study, scientists at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, a part of the National Institutes of Health, wanted to see whether the protein could produce a burst of neural activity known as L-LTP, or late long-term potentiation, which occurs during memory formation.
Working with tissue taken from mice brains, the scientists found that mBDNF was a crucial ingredient in producing L-LTP in the hippocampus, a section of the brain crucial to the formation of memories.
The work with mBDNF might one day help people with learning and memory disorders, the researchers said.
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