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Jumpstarting Memories

June 10, 2014

Scientists turn memories on and off in rats.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Jumpstarting memories. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Our memories are formed by strengthening the connections – or synapses – between nerve cells in certain parts of our brains.

ROBERTO MALINOW (UCSD):

The idea is that when you learn something, there’s a sudden change in the strength of some synapses and that increase in the strength is necessary in order for you to be able to recall the memory.

HIRSHON:

That’s University of California, San Diego neuroscientist Roberto Malinow. His team reports that they temporarily disabled fearful memories in rats by stimulating nerve cells in a way that weakened synaptic connections. Then, by using a different stimulus, they reactivated those same memories later on. Malinow says the experiment could shed light on Alzheimer’s disease, because beta-amyloid plaques in the brain are known to weaken synaptic connections, resulting in the condition’s hallmark memory loss. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.