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Stopping a receptor called 'nogo' boosts the synapses
Date:3/18/2008

New findings about a protein called the nogo receptor are offering fresh ways to think about keeping the brain sharp.

Scientists have found that reducing the nogo receptor in the brain results in stronger brain signaling in mice, effectively boosting signal strength between the synapses, the connections between nerve cells in the brain. The ability to enhance such connections is central to the brains ability to rewire, a process that happens constantly as we learn and remember. The findings are in the March 12 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.

The work ties together several research threads that touch upon the health benefits of exercise. While those benefits are broadly recognized, how the gains accrue at a molecular level has been largely unknown. The new research gives scientists a way to produce changes in the brain that mirror those brought about by exercise, by reducing the effect of the nogo receptor.

The find comes as a surprise, because for much of the last decade, the nogo receptor has been a prime target of researchers trying to coax nerves in the spinal cord to grow again. They named the protein after its ability to stop neurons from growing. Its action in the brain has not been a hot topic of study.

The find by neuroscientists at the University of Rochester Medical Center casts the nogo receptor in a new light. Instead of serving as a target for efforts at regrowing spinal nerve fibers indeed, the Rochester team showed last year that the molecule doesnt control that process the molecule suddenly has much broader implications for learning and memory.

One of the central questions in neuroscience is what is the molecular and cellular basis of learning? said Roman Giger, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Genetics, who led the study. The nogo receptor seems to play a role.

The receptor is a promiscuous molecule that hooks up with several other molecules which prevent t
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Contact: Tom Rickey
tom_rickey@urmc.rochester.edu
585-275-7954
University of Rochester Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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