Discovery of a new key player in long-term memory

October 07, 2020

A McGill-led multi-institutional research team has discovered that during memory consolidation, there are at least two distinct processes taking place in two different brain networks - the excitatory and inhibitory networks. The excitatory neurons are involved in creating a memory trace, and the inhibitory neurons block out background noise and allow long-term learning to take place.

The team, led by McGill University Professors Nahum Sonenberg and Arkady Khoutorsky, Université de Montréal Professor Jean-Claude Lacaille, and University of Haifa Professor Kobi Rosenblum, senior authors on the paper published today in Nature, also found that each neuronal system can be selectively manipulated to control long-term memory. The research, which answers a long-standing question about which neuronal subtypes are involved in memory consolidation, has potential implications for novel targets for medication for disorders such as Alzheimer's disease and autism, which involve altered memory processes.

Looking for the neurons involved in memory consolidation

How do short-term memories (which last just a few hours) transform into long-term memories (which may last years)? It's been known for decades that this process, called memory consolidation, requires the synthesis of new proteins in brain cells. But until now, it hasn't been known which subtypes of neurons were involved in the process.

To identify which neuronal networks are essential in memory consolidation, the researchers used transgenic mice to manipulate a particular molecular pathway, eIF2α, in specific types of neurons. This pathway had already been shown to play a key role in controlling the formation of long-term memories and regulating protein synthesis in neurons. Moreover, earlier research had identified eIF2α as pivotal for both neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative diseases.

Excitatory and inhibitory systems both play a role in memory consolidation

"We found that stimulation of protein synthesis via eIF2α in excitatory neurons of the hippocampus was sufficient to enhance memory formation and modification of synapses, the sites of communication between neurons", says Dr. Kobi Rosenblum.

However, interestingly, "we also found that stimulation of protein synthesis via eIF2α in a specific class of inhibitory neurons, somatostatin interneurons, was also sufficient to augment long-term memory by tuning the plasticity of neuronal connections", says Dr. Jean-Claude Lacaille.

"It is fascinating to be able to show that these new players - inhibitory neurons - have an important role in memory consolidation," added Dr. Vijendra Sharma, a research associate in Prof. Sonenberg's lab and the first author on the paper. "It had been assumed, until now, that eIF2α pathway regulates memory via excitatory neurons."

"These new findings identify protein synthesis in inhibitory neurons, and specifically somatostatin cells, as a novel target for possible therapeutic interventions in disorders such as Alzheimer's disease and autism," concluded Dr. Nahum Sonenberg. "We hope that this will help in the design of both preventative and post-diagnosis treatments for those who suffer from disorders involving memory deficits."
-end-
The research was funded by: Canada's International Development Research Centre (IDRC), in partnership with the Azrieli Foundation, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), and the Israel Science Foundation (ISF) to K.R. and N.S., JCL is supported by a CIHR Project grant and a Canada Research Chair in Cellular and Molecular Neurophysiology.

To read "eIF2α controls memory consolidation via excitatory and somatostatin neurons" by V. Sharma et al in Nature

DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-2805-8

About McGill University

Founded in Montreal, Quebec, in 1821, McGill University is Canada's top ranked medical doctoral university. McGill is consistently ranked as one of the top universities, both nationally and internationally. It is a world-renowned institution of higher learning with research activities spanning two campuses, 11 faculties, 13 professional schools, 300 programs of study and over 40,000 students, including more than 10,200 graduate students. McGill attracts students from over 150 countries around the world, its 12,800 international students making up 31% of the student body. Over half of McGill students claim a first language other than English, including approximately 19% of our students who say French is their mother tongue.

Contact:

Katherine Gombay
McGill Media Relations Office
1-514-717-2289
katherine.gombay@mcgill.ca
http://www.mcgill.ca/newsroom/
http://twitter.com/McGillU

McGill University

Related Science Articles from Brightsurf:

75 science societies urge the education department to base Title IX sexual harassment regulations on evidence and science
The American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) today led 75 scientific societies in submitting comments on the US Department of Education's proposed changes to Title IX regulations.

Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, biopharma, and pharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2018 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.

Science in the palm of your hand: How citizen science transforms passive learners
Citizen science projects can engage even children who previously were not interested in science.

Applied science may yield more translational research publications than basic science
While translational research can happen at any stage of the research process, a recent investigation of behavioral and social science research awards granted by the NIH between 2008 and 2014 revealed that applied science yielded a higher volume of translational research publications than basic science, according to a study published May 9, 2018 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Xueying Han from the Science and Technology Policy Institute, USA, and colleagues.

Prominent academics, including Salk's Thomas Albright, call for more science in forensic science
Six scientists who recently served on the National Commission on Forensic Science are calling on the scientific community at large to advocate for increased research and financial support of forensic science as well as the introduction of empirical testing requirements to ensure the validity of outcomes.

World Science Forum 2017 Jordan issues Science for Peace Declaration
On behalf of the coordinating organizations responsible for delivering the World Science Forum Jordan, the concluding Science for Peace Declaration issued at the Dead Sea represents a global call for action to science and society to build a future that promises greater equality, security and opportunity for all, and in which science plays an increasingly prominent role as an enabler of fair and sustainable development.

PETA science group promotes animal-free science at society of toxicology conference
The PETA International Science Consortium Ltd. is presenting two posters on animal-free methods for testing inhalation toxicity at the 56th annual Society of Toxicology (SOT) meeting March 12 to 16, 2017, in Baltimore, Maryland.

Citizen Science in the Digital Age: Rhetoric, Science and Public Engagement
James Wynn's timely investigation highlights scientific studies grounded in publicly gathered data and probes the rhetoric these studies employ.

Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, pharma, and biopharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2016 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.

Three natural science professors win TJ Park Science Fellowship
Professor Jung-Min Kee (Department of Chemistry, UNIST), Professor Kyudong Choi (Department of Mathematical Sciences, UNIST), and Professor Kwanpyo Kim (Department of Physics, UNIST) are the recipients of the Cheong-Am (TJ Park) Science Fellowship of the year 2016.

Read More: Science News and Science 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.