Scientists Find New Long-Term Memory Center In Fly Brains
A research team from the National Tsing Hua University in Taiwan is challenging conventional notions of where long-term memory is formed in the brain.
AsianScientist (Feb. 22, 2012) – In a new publication in the journal Science, a research team from the National Tsing Hua University in Taiwan is challenging conventional notions of where long-term memory is formed in the brain.
Invertebrates such as insects and arthropods have an area in the brain called the mushroom body (MB), a dense pair of neurons long known to be the adult learning and memory center of the brain.
Led by Prof. Ann-Shyn Chiang, Director of the Brain Research Center at the National Tsing Hua University, the research team found that two dorsal-anterior-lateral (DAL) neurons in Drosophila melanogaster fruit flies are also involved in long-term memory formation.
The flies were trained using familiar odors, a process also known as “olfactory-associated conditioning,” which caused the flies to develop long-term memory of these smells.
At the biochemical level, new proteins must be synthesized to allow for memory retention.
By using toxins that selectively turned off ribosomes – tiny protein-making factories in cells – in different regions of the brain and at different time windows, the researchers found that inhibiting protein synthesis in the mushroom body did not impair long-term memory formation, as originally thought.
Using fluorescent proteins that light up when proteins are synthesized, the researchers observed that long-term memory formation in Drosophila was affected by targeting a pair of DAL neurons instead.
Hence, the authors propose a new and previously under-appreciated pathway in fruit flies where long-term memories linked to smell are made.
The article can be found at: Chen CC et al. (2012) Visualizing Long-Term Memory Formation in Two Neurons of the Drosophila Brain.
Copyright: Asian Scientist Magazine.
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