The increase in green fluorescence represents the imaging of local translation at synapses during long-term synaptic plasticity.
Scientists capture the first image of memories being made
The ability to learn and to establish new memories is essential to our daily existence and identity; enabling us to navigate through the world. A new study by researchers at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital (The Neuro), McGill University and University of California, Los Angeles has captured an image for the first time of a mechanism, specifically protein translation, which underlies long-term memory formation. The finding provides the first visual evidence that when a new memory is formed new proteins are made locally at the synapse - the connection between nerve cells - increasing the strength of the synaptic connection and reinforcing the memory. The study published inScience, is important for understanding how memory traces are created and the ability to monitor it in real time will allow a detailed understanding of how memories are formed.
When considering what might be going on in the brain at a molecular level two essential properties of memory need to be taken into account. First, because a lot of information needs to be maintained over a long time there has to be some degree of stability. Second, to allow for learning and adaptation the system also needs to be highly flexible.
For this reason, research has focused on synapses which are the main site of exchange and storage in the brain. They form a vast but also constantly fluctuating network of connections whose ability to change and adapt, called synaptic plasticity, may be the fundamental basis of learning and memory.
“But, if this network is constantly changing, the question is how do memories stay put, how are they formed? It has been known for some time that an important step in long-term memory formation is “translation”, or the production, of new proteins locally at the synapse, strengthening the synaptic connection in the reinforcement of a memory, which until now has never been imaged,” says Dr. Wayne Sossin, neuroscientist at The Neuro and co-investigator in the study. “Using a translational reporter, a fluorescent protein that can be easily detected and tracked, we directly visualized the increased local translation, or protein synthesis, during memory formation. Importantly, this translation was synapse-specific and it required activation of the post-synaptic cell, showing that this step required cooperation between the pre and post-synaptic compartments, the parts of the two neurons that meet at the synapse. Thus highly regulated local translation occurs at synapses during long-term plasticity and requires trans-synaptic signals.”
Long-term memory and synaptic plasticity require changes in gene expression and yet can occur in a synapse-specific manner. This study provides evidence that a mechanism that mediates this gene expression during neuronal plasticity involves regulated translation of localized mRNA at stimulated synapses. These findings are instrumental in establishing the molecular processes involved in long-term memory formation and provide insight into diseases involving memory impairment.
This study was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the WM Keck Foundation and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.
What happens in the brain during an orgasm?
Although the reasons for having sex of any kind are varied and complex, reaching orgasm is usually the goal. Because we’re all so different, coming up with a universal description of an orgasm is impossible. The one thing that most people can agree on is that it’s an incredibly, intensely pleasurable experience.
So what is it? When in doubt, go to the dictionary. The Oxford English Dictonary defines an orgasm as “a sudden movement, spasm, contraction, or convulsion […] a surge of sexual excitement.” Merriam-Webster gets more descriptive, stating that it’s “an explosive discharge of neuromuscular tensions at the height of sexual arousal that is usually accompanied by the ejaculation of semen in the male and by vaginal contractions in the female.” The famous sex researcher Dr. Alfred Kinsey once said that an orgasm “can be likened to the crescendo, climax, and sudden stillness achieved by an orchestra of human emotions … an explosion of tensions, and tosneezing” [source: Geddes].
Nearly every aspect of the orgasm — what’s required to have one, why some people can’t seem to achieve one, why we have them at all — has been the subject of much research and debate. What happens to the body during an orgasm is pretty well-known, and it’s no surprise that the brain plays a big part in reaching one. But researchers are still in the process of figuring out exactly what’s happening in the brain during an orgasm. Let’s start with looking at the messages that the body sends to the brain.
The plaques shown above is seen in brains of people with Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Plaques are clumps of amyloid, which is a time of protein. They interfere with neural transmission.
The tangles shown above are short for neurofibrillary tangles. They are associated with the death of brain cells.