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Limitless: The science behind remembering everything


If you could remember everything, you saw, learned, or did, would it be a blessing or a curse? Well an even better question would be, it even possible to upgrade the storage capabilities of the brain? The answer is strangely enough, maybe, according to a new study we might just be able to remember quite literally everything.

Their research has identified a molecule that puts a brake on brain processing and when removed, brain function and memory recall is improved. The study has huge implications for neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative diseases, things like autism spectrum disorders and ideally Alzheimer’s disease.

“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 neuroscientist, Dr. Keith Murai, the study’s senior author.

“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.”

The team used a mouse model to study how changes in brain cell connections produce new memories. They demonstrated that a protein, FXR1P (Fragile X Related Protein 1), was responsible for suppressing the production of molecules required for building new memories. When FXR1P was selectively removed from certain parts of the brain, these new molecules were produced that strengthened connections between brain cells and this correlated with improved memory and recall in the mice.

Image credit goes to: Cell Reports

Image credit goes to: Cell Reports

“The role of FXR1P was a surprising result,” says Dr. Murai. “Previous to our work, no-one had identified a role for this regulator in the brain. Our findings have provided fundamental knowledge about how the brain processes information.”

Of course, how the brain processes information and even how it stores memories is still mostly an uncharted territory for science.

“We’ve identified a new pathway that directly regulates how information is handled and this could have relevance for understanding and treating brain diseases,” Dr. Murai says.

“Future research in this area could be very interesting,” he adds.

The team is hopeful that the work they are doing will lead to some big changes for the way neurological disorders are treated, while they are still a long way off from giving someone the ability to recall any memory they want, more reasonable (and useful) uses for the research are clear, like in the case of Alzheimer’s patients.

“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,” says Dr. Murai.

“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.”

Personally, I would not mind being able to remember everything, then again sometimes forgetting has its benefits. It is then unfortunate that we do not always remember why.

Denise Cook7, Erin Nuro7, Emma V. Jones, Haider F. Altimimi, W. Todd Farmer, Valentina Gandin,, Edith Hanna,, Ruiting Zong,, Alessandro Barbon,, David L. Nelson,, Ivan Topisirovic,, Joseph Rochford,, David Stellwagen,, Jean-Claude Béïque,, & Keith K. Murai (2014). FXR1P Limits Long-Term Memory, Long-Lasting Synaptic Potentiation, and De Novo GluA2 Translation
Cell Reports : 10.1016/j.celrep.2014.10.028

One response

  1. Reblogged this on Conversations I Wish I Had.

    November 13, 2014 at 2:31 pm

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