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Extending lifespan has mixed effects on learning and memory
Date:5/19/2010

ries, but their long-term memories were severely impaired; the memories faded within 24 hours, as opposed to 40 hours in normal worms. The researchers determined this by analyzing the degree to which the worms moved toward the butanone in the memory tests.

But the worms did not experience a decline with age in their long-term memories, weak though they were; they were able to form long-term memories even four days into adulthood, by which time normal worms have lost this ability entirely.

In contrast, the strain of young worms with reduced activity in their insulin-signaling pathways had longer short-term memories -- lasting about six hours, or three times as long as in normal worms -- and long-term memories that lasted far longer than the 40 hours in normal worms. Additionally, these mutants retained the ability to learn much longer than normal worms. But their ability to form long-term memories faded at the same rate as in normal worms -- by day four of adulthood, the worms could no longer make long-term associations.

By looking at the molecular mechanisms at play in the worms, the biologists determined that the differences in the effects of caloric restriction and reduced insulin signaling on age-related decline in long-term memory appear to be linked to expression of a protein called CREB.

In their experiments, the researchers found that the presence of CREB, which binds to DNA and regulates the expression of genes, is crucial for the formation of long-term memories in C. elegans, but not required for learning or short-term memory. Previous studies have shown that CREB is required for long-term memory in numerous organisms, including sea slugs, fruit flies and mammals.

For example, the Princeton team observed that higher levels of CREB protein were found in young C. elegans with defective insulin receptors, which accounts for the heightened long-term memories observed in these worms. Similarly, CREB
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Contact: Kitta MacPherson
kittamac@princeton.edu
609-258-5729
Princeton University
Source:Eurekalert  

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