Our brains rarely record single memories — instead, they store memories into groups so that the recollection of one significant memory triggers the recall of others connected by time. As we age, however, our brains gradually lose this ability to link related memories.
Now UCLA researchers have discovered a key molecular mechanism behind memory linking. They’ve also identified a way to restore this brain function in middle-aged mice — and an FDA-approved drug that achieves the same thing.
Published in Nature, the findings suggest a new method for strengthening human memory in middle age and a possible early intervention for dementia.
“Our memories are a huge part of who we are,” explained Alcino Silva, a distinguished professor of neurobiology and psychiatry at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. “The ability to link related experiences teaches how to stay safe and operate successfully in the world.”
A bit of Biology 101: cells are studded with receptors. To enter a cell, a molecule must latch onto its matching receptor, which operates like a doorknob to provide access inside.
The UCLA team focused on a gene called CCR5 that encodes the CCR5 receptor — the same one that HIV hitches a ride on to infect the brain cell and cause memory loss in AIDS patients.
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