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 New Understanding Of Basic Units of Memory

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Date posted: 24/09/2007

A discovery by Duke University Medical Center neurobiologist Michael Ehlers, has opened the way for an understanding as to just how the brain processes memory on a physical level.

Individual memories are "burned onto" hundreds of receptors that are constantly in motion around nerve synapses - gaps between individual nerve cells crucial for signals to travel throughout the brain.

These receptors are constantly moving around the synapse and often they disappear or escape. Ehlers discovered that a specific set of molecules catch these elusive receptors, take them to what is in essence, a recycling plant where they are reprocessed and returned to the synapse intact.

These receptors constantly escape the synapse and are in a perpetual state of recycling," said Ehlers. "This process occurs on a time scale of minutes or hours, so the acquisition of new neurotransmitter receptors and their recycling is an on-going process. Memory loss may result from receptors escaping from the synapse."

All this activity takes place on millions of tiny "nubs," or protrusions in the synapses known as dendritic spines. The recycling plants are located within the body of these dendritic spines.

"We believe that the existence of this recycling ability explains in part how individual dendritic spines retain their unique identity amidst this constant molecular turnover," Ehlers said. "The system is simultaneously dynamic and stable."

With a very basic understanding of how the process physically works, the prospect of memory augmenting, and even memory implantation ? such as for rapid learning - becomes more plausible.

See the full Story via external site: www.sciencedaily.com



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