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MIT neuroscientists explain 'Proustian effect' of small details attached to big memories
Date:1/13/2011

rs for the dendrites, which play a critical role in integrating synaptic inputs and determining the extent to which the neuron acts on incoming signals.

In response to external stimuli, dendritic spines in the cerebral cortex undergo structural remodeling, getting larger in response to repeated activity within the brain. This remodeling is thought to underlie learning and memory.

The MIT researchers found that a memory of a seemingly irrelevant detailthe kind of detail that would normally be relegated to a short-term memory--may accompany a long-term memory if two synapses on a single dendritic arbor are stimulated within an hour and a half of each other.

"A synapse that received a weak stimulation, the kind that would normally accompany a short-term memory, will express a correlate of a long-term memory if two synapses on a single dendritic branch were involved in a similar time frame," Govindarajan said.

This occurs because the weakly stimulated synapse can steal or hitchhike on a set of proteins synthesized at or near the strongly stimulated synapse. These proteins are necessary for the enlargement of a dendritic spine that allows the establishment of a long-term memory.

"Not all irrelevant information is recalled, because some of it did not stimulate the synapses of the dendritic branch that happens to contain the strongly stimulated synapse," Israely said.


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Contact: Jessica Holmes
holmesj@mit.edu
617-253-2702
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Source:Eurekalert

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