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Memory Process More Complex Than Expected

New research discovers the process we use to store memories is more complex than previously believed.

New York University neuroscientists say the finding underscores the challenge scientists face in addressing memory-related ailments, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.

The researchers looked at memory consolidation and reconsolidation. Memory consolidation is the neurological storing of memories after an experience. However, memory is dynamic and changes when new experiences bring to mind old memories.

As a result, the act of remembering makes the memory vulnerable until it is stored again. During this period, new information may be incorporated into the old memory.

It has been well-established that the synthesis of new proteins within neurons is necessary for memory storage.

More specifically, this process is important for stabilizing memories because it triggers the production of new proteins that are required for molecular and synaptic changes during both consolidation and reconsolidation.

The purpose of the NYU study was to determine if there were differences between memory consolidation and reconsolidation during protein synthesis.

Similar comparative studies have been conducted, but those focused on elongation, one of the latter stages of protein synthesis; the PNAS research considered the initiation stage, or the first step of this process.

Using laboratory rats as subjects, the researchers used mild electric shocks paired with an audible tone to generate a specific associative fear memory and, with it, memory consolidation.

They played the audible tone one day later, a step designed to initiate recall of the earlier fear memory and bring about reconsolidation. During both of these steps, the rats were injected with a drug designed to inhibit the initiation stage of protein synthesis.

Their results showed that the inhibitor could effectively interfere with memory consolidation, but had no impact on memory reconsolidation.

“Our results show the different effects of specifically inhibiting the initiation of protein synthesis on memory consolidation and reconsolidation, making clear these two processes have greater variation than previously thought,” explained Eric Klann, Ph.D., one of the study’s co-authors.

“Because addressing memory-related afflictions such at PTSD depends on first understanding the nature of memory formation and the playback of those memories, finding remedies may prove even more challenging than is currently recognized.”

Their research appears in the journal The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Source: New York University

Memory Process More Complex Than Expected

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Memory Process More Complex Than Expected. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 25, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2011/02/03/memory-process-more-complex-than-expected/23163.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.