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Hebrew University research on octopuses sheds light on memory
Date:6/17/2008

Jerusalem, June 17, 2008 Research on octopuses has shed new light on how our brains store and recall memory, says Dr. Benny Hochner of the Department of Neurobiology at the Alexander Silberman Institute of Life Sciences at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Why octopuses?

Octopuses and other related creatures, known as cephalopods, are considered to be the most intelligent invertebrates because they have relatively large brains and they can be trained for various learning and memory tasks, says Dr. Hochner.

Their behavior repertoire and learning and memory abilities are even comparable in their complexity to those of advanced vertebrates. However, they are still invertebrate mollusks with brains that contain a much fewer number of nerve cells and much simpler anatomical organization than that of vertebrate brains. This unique constellation was utilized to tackle one of the most interesting questions in modern neuroscience, which is how the brain stores and recalls memories

In a previous study, Hochner discovered that an area in the octopus brain that was known to be important for learning and memory showed a robust, activity-dependent, long-term synaptic potentiation (LTP) a process which is strikingly similar to that discovered in vertebrate brains.

This LTP process accelerates the transformation of information between nerve cells by enhancing the transmission of electrical signals through a special structure called the synapse for days and even a lifetime. It is believed that in the area in the brain that stores memories, the synaptic connections between nerve cells that are more active during a specific learning function are strengthened by this activity-induced LTP. One can describe this process as an "engraving of memory traces" in the neuronal networks that store information for a long time, says Hochner.

In a recent article in the journal, Current Biology, Hochner described how he tested these hypotheses and id
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Contact: Jerry Barach
jerryb@savion.huji.ac.il
972-258-82904
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Source:Eurekalert  

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