Memory Making Linked to Gene and Protein, Research Shows
In his 1923 volume The Prisoner, French novelist Marcel Proust describes memory as a “…sort of chemical laboratory.” This apt definition was ahead of its time, as scientists were just learning about the brain’s anatomy. Nearly a century later, neuroscientists are beginning to discover the chemical and molecular pathways responsible for creating and recalling memories.
At Rutgers University, Timothy Otto and his colleagues are delving into the brain’s biochemical activities to determine the ways in which experiences activate genes within brain cells to form lasting memories. The researchers have discovered that the Arc gene and its protein product, also called Arc, play an essential role in the memory formation process. One of tens of thousands of proteins in the brain, Arc is found in the brain’s hippocampus region (the area involved in many forms of learning), and activates as memories form.
“We’ve shown that to form new memories the hippocampus must produce Arc and that blocking Arc production, blocks memory formation and recall,” explains Otto.