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Study of marine snail leads to new insights into long-term memory
Date:6/19/2008

"As far as I can tell, the main reason why snails don't learn Shakespeare and do algebra is they just don't have the computational power, because they have only 20,000 neurons," Glanzman said. "However, in terms of learning, all the cellular and molecular processes seem to be very, very similar. The fundamental mechanisms of learning and memory are identical, as far as we can tell."

Synaptic change requires an interaction between the two sides of the synapse, Glanzman said.

"The synthesis of presynaptic proteins depends on postsynaptic calcium," he said. "Now the question for us to understand is what are the signals that are activated by postsynaptic calcium that travel across the synapse or somehow affect the presynaptic cell to trigger the synthesis of these proteins."

Glanzman and his co-authors Diancai Cai and Shanping Chen, UCLA research associates in Glanzman's laboratory believe they are the first scientists ever to see the synthesis of a specific presynaptic protein that is mediated by postsynaptic calcium during a learning-related synaptic change.

Current Biology is a premier journal for general biology.

Glanzman's research is funded by a Senator Jacob Javits Award in the Neurosciences from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) and by the National Institute of Mental Health.

The Jacob Javits Award in the Neurosciences is presented to investigators who have "demonstrated exceptional scientific excellence and productivity in research areas supported by the NINDS and who are expected to conduct cutting-edge research over the next seven years."

The marine snail processes information about its environment and is capable of learning when an environment is safe and when it is not, learning to escape from predators, and learning to identify food. The marine snail is native to California, living in tidal waters off the coast.

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Contact: Stuart Wolpert
swolpert@support.ucla.edu
310-206-0511
University of California - Los Angeles
Source:Eurekalert

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