Sometimes the brain remembers too much, as with autism, and other times too little, as with Alzheimer's disease. Researchers from McGill University have discovered a protein trigger that controls how this happens in the brain.
Led by Dr. Keith Murai, associate professor in the department of neurology and neurosurgery, the researchers found they could either block or enhance the brain's ability to create the new molecules necessary for new memory formation.
Dr. Murai explains: "Previous research has shown that production of new molecules is necessary for storing memories in the brain; if you block the production of these molecules, new memory formation does not take place," says Murai. "Our findings show that the brain has a key protein that limits the production of molecules necessary for memory formation. When this brake-protein is suppressed, the brain is able to store more information.
"Future research in this area could be very interesting," he adds. "If we can identify compounds that control the braking potential of FXR1P, we may be able to alter the amount of brain activity or plasticity. For example, in autism, one may want to decrease certain brain activity and in Alzheimer's disease, we may want to enhance the activity. By manipulating FXR1P, we may eventually be able to adjust memory formation and retrieval, thus improving the quality of life of people suffering from brain diseases."
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