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Jumpstarting Memories

June 10, 2014

Scientists turn memories on and off in rats.



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.


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.


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.