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Neuroscience research may help patients recover from brain injury
Date:10/5/2010

New neuroscience research by life scientists from UCLA and Australia may potentially help people who have lost their ability to remember due to brain injury or disease.

By examining how we learn and store memories, these scientists have shown that the way the brain first captures and encodes a situation or event is quite different from how it processes subsequent similar events.

The study is published in the Sept. 29 edition of the online journal PLoS ONE, a publication of the Public Library of Science.

Memories are formed in the part of the brain known as the hippocampus, a seahorse-shaped structure that plays critical roles in processing, storing and recalling information. The hippocampus is very susceptible to damage through stroke or lack of oxygen and is critically involved in Alzheimer's disease, said study co-author Michael Fanselow, a UCLA professor of psychology and a member of the UCLA Brain Research Institute.

When a memory is first formed, a small protein involved in synaptic transmission the NMDA receptor is indispensable to the process, said study co-author Bryce Vissel, a group leader of the neuroscience research program at Sydney's Garvan Institute of Medical Research. Activation of the NMDA receptor allows calcium to enter a neuron, and calcium permeability enables a chain of molecular reactions that help encode experience and consolidate memory, Fanselow and Vissel said.

Learning theorists have assumed that learning cannot occur without NMDA receptors. But the new findings show that NMDA receptors are not essential in "second-learning," when the rules of "first-learning" are applied to new yet similar scenarios. Instead, another class of receptors known as AMPA receptors, also calcium permeable, appears to take up the task.

Although the findings are still preliminary, Fanselow is optimistic about what it could mean for people whose memory formation has been impaired. '/>"/>

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

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