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CSHL study finds short- and long-term memories require same gene but in different circuits
Date:8/17/2009

rutabaga genes learn to associate the odor with the shock and if given a choice, buzz away from the grid. But flies that carry a mutated version of rutabaga in their brains lack both short- and long-term memory, don't learn the association, and so fail to avoid the shocks.

The team has now found, however, that this total memory deficit does not occur when flies carry the mutated version in either the γ or in the αβ lobes. Flies in which normal rutabaga function was restored within the γ lobe alone regained short-term memory but not long-term memory. Restoring the gene's function in the αβ lobe alone restored long-term memory, but not short-term memory.

Long- and short-term memory involve different circuits

"This ability to independently restore either short- or long-term memory depending on where rutabaga is expressed supports the idea that there are different anatomical and circuit requirements for different stages of memory," Dubnau explains. It also challenges a previously held notion that neurons that form short-term memory are also involved in storing long-term memory.

Previous biochemical studies have suggested that rapid, short-lived signals characteristic of short-term memory cause unstable changes in a neuron's connectivity that are then stabilized by slower, long-lasting signals that help establish long-term memory in the same neuron. But anatomy studies have long hinted at different circuits. Surgical lesions that destroy different parts of an animal's brain can separately disrupt the two kinds of memory, suggesting that the two memory types might involve different neuronal populations.

"We've now used genetics as a finer scalpel than surgery to reconcile these findings," Dubnau says. His team's results suggest that biochemical signaling for both types of memory are triggered at the same time, but in different neuron sets. Memory traces form more quickly in one set than
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Contact: Hema Bashyam
bashyam@cshl.edu
516-367-6822
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert

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