Researchers find key to keep working memory working

March 19, 2020

Working memory, the ability to hold a thought in mind even through distraction, is the foundation of abstract reasoning and a defining characteristic of the human brain. It is also impaired in disorders such as schizophrenia and Alzheimer's disease.

Now Yale researchers have found a key molecule that helps neurons maintain information in working memory, which could lead to potential treatments for neurocognitive disorders, they report March 19 in the journal Neuron.

"Working memory arises from neuronal circuits in the prefrontal cortex," said senior author Min Wang, senior research scientist in neuroscience. "We have been learning that these circuits have special molecular maintenance requirements."

Neurons in the prefrontal cortex excite each other to keep information "in mind." These circuits act as a sort of mental sketch pad, allowing us to remember that caramelized onions are cooking in the frying pan while we search the next room for a pair of scissors.

The new study shows that these prefrontal cortical circuits depend upon the neurotransmitter acetylcholine stimulating muscarinic M1 receptors aligned on the surface of neurons of the prefrontal cortex. Blocking muscarinic M1 receptors reduced the firing of neurons involved in working memory, while activating the M1 receptors helped restore neuronal firing. Because acetylcholine actions at M1 receptors are reduced in schizophrenia and Alzheimer's disease, the M1 receptor may serve as a potential therapeutic target, the authors suggest.

Wang notes that a drug currently under development for the treatment of schizophrenia stimulates this M1 receptor and has shown promise in early clinical trials.
-end-
Yale's Veronica Galvin is first author of the paper, which was primarily funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Yale University

Related Schizophrenia Articles from Brightsurf:

Schizophrenia: When the thalamus misleads the ear
Scientists at the University of Geneva (UNIGE) and the Synapsy National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) have succeeded in linking the onset of auditory hallucinations - one of the most common symptoms of schizophrenia - with the abnormal development of certain substructures of a region deep in the brain called the thalamus.

Unlocking schizophrenia
New research, led by Prof. LIU Bing and Prof. JIANG Tianzi from the Institute of Automation of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and their collaborators have recently developed a novel imaging marker that may help in the personalized medicine of psychiatric disorders.

Researchers discover second type of schizophrenia
In a study of more than 300 patients from three continents, over one third had brains that looked similar to healthy people.

New clues into the genetic origins of schizophrenia
The first genetic analysis of schizophrenia in an ancestral African population, the South African Xhosa, appears in the Jan.

Dietary supplement may help with schizophrenia
A dietary supplement, sarcosine, may help with schizophrenia as part of a holistic approach complementing antipsychotic medication, according to a UCL researcher.

Schizophrenia: Adolescence is the game-changer
Schizophrenia may be related to the deletion syndrome. However, not everyone who has the syndrome necessarily develops psychotic symptoms.

Study suggests overdiagnosis of schizophrenia
In a small study of patients referred to the Johns Hopkins Early Psychosis Intervention Clinic (EPIC), Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers report that about half the people referred to the clinic with a schizophrenia diagnosis didn't actually have schizophrenia.

The ways of wisdom in schizophrenia
Researchers at UC San Diego School of Medicine report that persons with schizophrenia scored lower on a wisdom assessment than non-psychiatric comparison participants, but that there was considerable variability in levels of wisdom, and those with higher scores displayed fewer psychotic symptoms.

Recognizing the uniqueness of different individuals with schizophrenia
Individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia differ greatly from one another. Researchers from Radboud university medical center, along with colleagues from England and Norway, have demonstrated that very few identical brain differences are shared amongst different patients.

Resynchronizing neurons to erase schizophrenia
Today, a decisive step in understanding schizophrenia has been taken.

Read More: Schizophrenia News and Schizophrenia Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.