Nerve cells have a special “pre-assembly” technique that enables the brain to quickly form memories.
The technique speeds up protein production at synapses. These proteins are required to make a memory.
Researchers have discovered that in nerve cells the production process for memory proteins is already pre-assembled at the synapse but stalled just before completion, awaiting the proper signals to finish, thereby speeding up the entire process.
When it comes time to make the memory, the process is switched on and the protein is made in a flash. The mechanism is analogous to a pre-fab home that is assembled in advance and then quickly completed in the correct location at the correct time.
“It’s not only important to make proteins in the right place, but it’s also important not to make the protein when it’s the wrong time,” says Wayne Sossin, a neuroscientist at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital at McGill University and senior investigator on the paper.
“This is especially important with nerve cells in the brain, as you only want the brain to make precise connections. If this process is indiscriminate, it leads to neurological disease.”
Sossin says the mechanism solves two problems: how to make proteins only at the right time and how to make proteins as quickly as possible in order to tightly associate the synaptic change with the experience/memory.
Researchers at the Université de Montréal collaborated on the study, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Source: McGill University