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First image of memory formation 'captured'

tech reviews Updated: Jun 19, 2009 11:33 IST
memory formation

Scientists have captured for the first time the image of memory formation.

An international team has in fact got the image of a mechanism, specifically protein translation, which underlies long-term memory formation, a finding which shows when a new memory is formed new proteins are made locally at the synapse -- the connection between nerve cells.

And, according to the scientists, this increases the strength of the synaptic connection and reinforces the memory.

"An important step in long-term memory formation is 'translation', or the production, of new proteins locally at the synapse strengthening synaptic connection in reinforcement of a memory, which until now has never been imaged.

"Using a translational reporter, a fluorescent protein that can be easily detected and tracked we directly visualised the increased local translation, or protein synthesis, during memory formation.

"Importantly, this translation was synapse-specific and it required activation of the post-synaptic cell, showing that this step required cooperation between the pre and post -synaptic compartments, the parts of the two neurons that meet at the synapse.

"Thus highly regulated local translation occurs at synapses during long-term plasticity and requires trans- synaptic signals," lead scientist Dr Wayne Sossin of Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital said.