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How memory is read out in the fly brain
Date:7/8/2011

This release is available in German.

What happens if you cannot recall your memory correctly? You are able to associate and store the name and face of a person, yet you might be unable to remember them when you meet that person. In this example, the recall of the information is temporarily impaired. How such associative memories are "read out" in the brain remains one of the great mysteries of modern neurobiology. Now, scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology in Martinsried and from the Ecole Suprieure de Physique et de Chimie Industrielles in Paris, with an international team of colleagues, took the first step to unravel this mechanism.

Fruit flies have the ability to remember. The brain of these minute animals can store different pieces of information and associations and can recall these for a long time. In comparison to the human brain, which boasts about 100 billion cells, the brain of the fruit fly is, of course, a lot smaller. However, many of the basic principles are the same in both species. Thus, the straightforward structure of the fly brain, with its modest hundred thousand cells, enables the scientists to decode processes at their point of origin: in other words, on the individual cell level.

Nerve cells with read-out function

In their experiments, the neurobiologists conditioned the fruit flies to associate a certain odor with a mild electrical stimulus. After repeating this classical conditioning experiment only once, the flies had already got the message and turned away from the pertaining odor. The key in this experiment was that the scientists could temporarily deactivate specific nerve cells. This was done by a combination of special genetic techniques which allowed certain nerve cells to be deactivated through a change of ambient temperature. In this way, the scientists could show that the b
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Contact: Stefanie Merker, Ph.D.
merker@neuro.mpg.de
49-898-578-3514
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Source:Eurekalert  

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