Memory mission explores new territory in neuroscience

November 20, 2008

Astrophysicists peer into the far corners of deep space for dark matter, but for neuroscientists at the Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) exploring the unknown is much closer to home.

They have discovered a mechanism vital to the development of the hippocampus * - a region of the brain crucial to the formation of memories, and the lifelong production and integration of new nerve cells.

To say the hippocampus is important is a bit like saying breathing is optimal.

According to QBI's Associate Professor Linda Richards, despite the crucial role performed by the hippocampus throughout life, knowledge of this region's early development remains surprisingly scant. Her research team is looking at how the brain forms during embryonic and foetal development.

Dr Richards and her colleagues have identified a gene that regulates the development of glial cells in the hippocampus. Their research shows that the hippocampus contains different populations of glial cells that are essential for the structural integrity of the hippocampus.

"Glial cells are an important part of the building blocks of the brain," Dr Richards said.

"They provide an essential scaffold for the migration of neurons in the developing brain. It is vital we understand how glial cells provide this structural scaffold because if the hippocampus is not formed correctly it cannot perform all the functions required of it in the developing and adult brain," she said.

"The hippocampus plays an integral role in spatial navigation, learning and memory, and is a major site for adult neurogenesis."

Mice lacking the gene that regulates glial cell differentiation exhibit major developmental irregularities, including catastrophic structural deformities of the hippocampus.

Equipped with this knowledge, researchers studying the hippocampus now have a better understanding of the genes that help control the development of this vital brain region. Fundamental scientific knowledge of this kind is an essential step in understanding brain function and repair.
-end-
The research appears in this week's edition of the Journal of Neuroscience: "Specific glial populations regulate hippocampal morphogeneis".

* The term hippocampus is derived from the Greek words "hippos" (horse) and "campus" (sea monster). The brain region known as the hippocampus has the characteristic shape of a sea-horse's tail.

Research Australia

Related Memory Articles from Brightsurf:

Memory of the Venus flytrap
In a study to be published in Nature Plants, a graduate student Mr.

Memory protein
When UC Santa Barbara materials scientist Omar Saleh and graduate student Ian Morgan sought to understand the mechanical behaviors of disordered proteins in the lab, they expected that after being stretched, one particular model protein would snap back instantaneously, like a rubber band.

Previously claimed memory boosting font 'Sans Forgetica' does not actually boost memory
It was previously claimed that the font Sans Forgetica could enhance people's memory for information, however researchers from the University of Warwick and the University of Waikato, New Zealand, have found after carrying out numerous experiments that the font does not enhance memory.

Memory boost with just one look
HRL Laboratories, LLC, researchers have published results showing that targeted transcranial electrical stimulation during slow-wave sleep can improve metamemories of specific episodes by 20% after only one viewing of the episode, compared to controls.

VR is not suited to visual memory?!
Toyohashi university of technology researcher and a research team at Tokyo Denki University have found that virtual reality (VR) may interfere with visual memory.

The genetic signature of memory
Despite their importance in memory, the human cortex and subcortex display a distinct collection of 'gene signatures.' The work recently published in eNeuro increases our understanding of how the brain creates memories and identifies potential genes for further investigation.

How long does memory last? For shape memory alloys, the longer the better
Scientists captured live action details of the phase transitions of shape memory alloys, giving them a better idea how to improve their properties for applications.

A NEAT discovery about memory
UAB researchers say over expression of NEAT1, an noncoding RNA, appears to diminish the ability of older brains to form memories.

Molecular memory can be used to increase the memory capacity of hard disks
Researchers at the University of Jyväskylä have taken part in an international British-Finnish-Chinese collaboration where the first molecule capable of remembering the direction of a magnetic above liquid nitrogen temperatures has been prepared and characterized.

Memory transferred between snails
Memories can be transferred between organisms by extracting ribonucleic acid (RNA) from a trained animal and injecting it into an untrained animal, as demonstrated in a study of sea snails published in eNeuro.

Read More: Memory News and Memory 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.