A University of British Columbia study identifies an important molecular change that occurs in the brain when we learn and remember, giving researchers a better understanding of the tools that brains use and providing insight into how the processes become disrupted in neurological diseases such as Alzheimer disease and Huntington disease.
Published in Nature Neuroscience, the research shows that learning stimulates brain cells in a way that causes a small fatty acid to attach to delta-catenin, a protein in the brain. While delta-catenin has previously been linked to learning, this study is the first to describe the protein’s role in the molecular mechanism behind memory formation. The study finds that this biochemical modification is essential in producing the changes in brain cell connectivity associated with learning, and may also provide an explanation for some mental disabilities. More work is needed to fully establish the importance of delta-catenin in building the brain connectivity behind learning and memory.
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Halpern SD, Ubel PA, Caplan AL, Marion DW, Palmer AM, Schiding JK, et al. Solid-organ transplantation in HIV-infected patients. N Engl J Med. 2002;347:284-7.
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