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Scientists identify brain's 'molecular memory switch'
Date:3/28/2013

or instance, they can land on the ceiling and detect that the fruit in your fruit bowl has gone off before you can."

"In experiments whereby we tested the flies' learning and memory ability, involving two odours presented to the flies with one associated with a mild shock, we found that around 90 per cent were able to learn the correct choice remembering to avoid the odour associated with the shock. Five lessons of the odour with punishment made the fly remember to avoid that odour for between 24 hours and a week, which is a long time for an insect that only lives a couple of months."

By localising the function of the key molecules CASK and CaMKII to the flies' equivalent brain area to the human hippocampus, the team found that the flies lacking these genes showed disrupted memory formation. In repeat memory tests those lacking these key genes were shown to have no ability to remember at three hours (mid-term memory) and 24 hours (long-term memory) although their initial learning or short-term memory wasn't affected.

Finally, the team introduced a copy of the human CASK gene it is 80 per cent identical to the fly CASK gene into the genome of a fly that completely lacked its own CASK gene and was therefore not usually able to remember. The researchers found that flies which had a copy of the human CASK gene could remember like a normal wildtype fly.

Dr Hodge, from the University's School of Physiology and Pharmacology, said: "Research into memory is particularly important as it gives us our sense of identity, and deficits in learning and memory occur in many diseases, injuries and during aging".

"CASK's control of CaMKII 'molecular memory switch' is clearly a critical step in how memories are written into neurons in the brain. These findings not only pave the way for to developing new therapies which reverse the effects of memory loss but also prove the compatibility of Drosophila to model these diseases in
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Contact: Caroline Clancy
caroline.clancy@bristol.ac.uk
44-011-792-88086
University of Bristol
Source:Eurekalert

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