Jogging memories

(Edmonton) Two University of Alberta physicists and a U.S. colleague may have discovered how memories are encoded in our brains.

Scientists understand memory as strengthened synaptic connections among neurons. However, "components of synaptic membranes are relatively short lived and frequently re-cycled while memories can last a lifetime," said Jack Tuszynski, who led a research team that included graduate student Travis Craddock and University of Arizona professor Stuart Hameroff.

Their paper, “Cytoskeletal Signaling: Is Memory Encoded in Microtuble Lattices by CaMKII Phosphorylation?” was recently published in the peer-reviewed online journal, PLoS Computational Biology.

The team looked into structures at a deeper molecular level. At the U of A, Tuszynski's group created sophisticated simulations using computational resources made possible by NSERC and the Allard Foundation. They found components that fit together and were capable of creating the information processing and storage capacity that the brain needs to form and retain memory.

The practical implications of understanding the mechanism of memory encoding are enormous.

"This could open up amazing new possibilities of dealing with memory-loss problems, interfacing our brains with hybrid devices to augment and 'refresh' our memories," said Tuszynski. "More importantly, it could lead to new therapeutic and preventive ways of dealing with neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's and dementia, whose incidence is growing very rapidly these days."