Columbia University Medical Center | Long-term Memories Are Maintained by Prion-like Proteins
The molecules that maintain long-term memories in mice are a normal version of prion* proteins and work the same way as mechanisms in prions that cause mad cow disease, Creutzfeld-Jakob disease in humans, and other degenerative brain diseases. That’s the conclusion of research from the lab of Nobel-winning neuroscientist Eric Kandel, MD, of Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC).
When long-term memories are created in the hippocampus of the brain, new connections are made between neurons to store the memory. But those physical connections must be maintained for a memory to persist, or else they will disintegrate and the memory will disappear within days. Many researchers have searched for molecules that maintain long-term memory, but their identity has remained elusive.
Kandel and Kausik Si, Ph.D., an associate investigator at the Stowers Institute, first identified functional prions in the giant sea slug (Aplysia) in 2003 and found they might contribute to the maintenance of memory storage. And in 2012, they found a major clue from a study in fruit flies: oligomer (self-copying clusters) of a synapse protein are an essential ingredient for the formation of their long-term memory.
CPEB3 prion-like protein is key/.../