Irish neuroscientists from Trinity College Dublin have discovered the process of storing memories in the brain. Published in the journal Current Biology, the study targets special brain cells known as engrams. Using genetic techniques, researchers identified two different groups of engram cells corresponding to two separate memories, and then tracked how new connections were formed between them during learning.
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Using optogenetics, a method of controlling brain cell activity using light, scientists have demonstrated how these newly created connections play a key role in learning.
As a result, a molecular mechanism was identified, regulated by a specific protein in the synapse, which is involved in the formation of connections between engrams.
“Engram memory cells are groups of brain cells that, when activated by specific experiences, change to incorporate and retain information in our brains. Reactivating these ‘building blocks’ recalls specific events associated with them. The question is how engrams store important information about the world,” noted the doctor Clara Ortega de San Luislead author of the article.
This study provides direct evidence that changes in synaptic connections between engram cells can be considered a plausible mechanism for memory retention in the brain.