New memories are impaired by old ones

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 56, No. 6, July August 2014, Page 287 News

UBC Faculty of Medicine researchers have discovered that so-called sticky synapses in the brain can impair new learning by excessively hard-wiring old memories and inhibiting our ability to adapt to a changing environment. Memories are formed by strong synaptic connections between nerve cells. A team of UBC neuroscientists has found that synapses that are too strong can hinder people’s capacity to learn new things by affecting the ability to modify behaviors to adjust to circumstances that are similar, but not identical, to previous experiences. Mr Fergil Mills, UBC PhD candidate and the study’s first author, notes that cognitive flexibility involves actively weakening old memory traces—in certain situations, you have to be able to forget to learn. 

The study shows that mice with excessive beta-catenin can learn a task just as well as normal mice, but lacked the mental dexterity to adapt if the task was altered. Professor Shernaz Bamji from UBC’s Department of Cellular and Physiological Sciences notes that increased levels of betacatenin have previously been reported in disorders such as Alzheimer disease and Huntington disease, and patients with these diseases have been shown to have deficits in cognitive flexibility similar to those observed in the study. Changes in beta-catenin levels can dramatically affect learning and memory, and may play a role in the cognitive deficits associated with these diseases. The study, “Cognitive Flexibility and Long-Term Depression (LTD) are Impaired Following β-catenin Stabilization in Vivo,” is published in June 2014 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and is available online at

. New memories are impaired by old ones. BCMJ, Vol. 56, No. 6, July, August, 2014, Page(s) 287 - News.

Above is the information needed to cite this article in your paper or presentation. The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) recommends the following citation style, which is the now nearly universally accepted citation style for scientific papers:
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.

About the ICMJE and citation styles

The ICMJE is small group of editors of general medical journals who first met informally in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1978 to establish guidelines for the format of manuscripts submitted to their journals. The group became known as the Vancouver Group. Its requirements for manuscripts, including formats for bibliographic references developed by the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM), were first published in 1979. The Vancouver Group expanded and evolved into the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), which meets annually. The ICMJE created the Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing, and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals to help authors and editors create and distribute accurate, clear, easily accessible reports of biomedical studies.

An alternate version of ICMJE style is to additionally list the month an issue number, but since most journals use continuous pagination, the shorter form provides sufficient information to locate the reference. The NLM now lists all authors.

BCMJ standard citation style is a slight modification of the ICMJE/NLM style, as follows:

  • Only the first three authors are listed, followed by "et al."
  • There is no period after the journal name.
  • Page numbers are not abbreviated.

For more information on the ICMJE Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing, and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals, visit

BCMJ Guidelines for Authors

Leave a Reply