Recently I was reading a couple of very interesting articles on memory formation mechanisms. You can read them too, see below:
- Learning to Read the Brain’s Temporary Records: Article
- Methyl marks on RNA discovered to be key to brain cell connections: Article
UCLA scientists discovered how connections between brain cells are located far from the central control centers of the cells. They believe the methyl groups that dot the RNA chains are key to brain cells ability to send signals to other cells. The researchers recently mapped out the location of methyls on mRNA in mouse brain cells and through the process of experimentation they determined genes are key to the encoding of proteins and that methylation of mRNA is key to increasing the speed of communication for protein translation when needed. It has been determined that the levels of key proteins at synapses have been linked to a number of psychiatric disorders, including autism. Understanding how the epitranscriptome is regulated, and what role it plays in brain biology, may eventually provide researchers with a new way to control the proteins found at synapses and, in turn, treat disorders characterized by synaptic dysfunction.
In addition to this, note how each cell in the body contains all the information needed for life, but not all genes are switched on in all tissues or under all conditions. This is one of the ways that a heart cell is different from a kidney cell, despite the fact they contain the same genes. When a gene is activated by signals from inside or outside the cell, it makes a molecular message (called an RNA) that contains all the information needed to make whatever that gene asks for. We now know that over 95% of our genes can actually make several different types of messages, depending on the needs of the cell.
What researchers are discovering is how the brain bridges the gap between experience and memory. Researchers asked how does the brain record electrical activity for our experiences, such as talking to a friend or the smell of french fries, etc. The electrical activity in the brain is different for each unique experience and the activity patterns are defined by which neurons are active and in what way they are active. The way the brain stores the neural activity is by turning on genes. All of the cells in our bodies have pretty much the same genes encoded in their DNA. Different genes turn on depending on the type of cell. For 30 years researchers have known that neurons turn on certain genes when they are electrically active. When a gene is turned on the cell sends a molecular copy to the gene in the DNA in the form of RNA. The RNA molecules remain in the cell as the brain’s record of what neurons were active. It is believed the Long-term memories are stored in physical changes to the neurons themselves and the type of change is determined by the pattern of electrical activity the neuron experiences. So the brain keeps track of which neurons are active. Basically, when we expose ourselves to certain things that have life long lasting effects, we are genetically writing that experience into our brain cells. This is a step towards understanding how the brain converts electrical activity to memory.