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Biotech Medicine

Memory Molecule Identified 97

Posted by kdawson
from the face-is-familiar dept.
Reader Ostracus informs us of research led by Michael Ehlers of Duke University that has identified a molecule, myosin Vb (five-b), that seems to be a critical component in the formation of memory. "A major puzzle for neurobiologists is how the brain can modify one... synapse at a time in a brain cell and not affect the thousands of other connections nearby. Plasticity, the ability of the brain to precisely rearrange the connections between its nerve cells, is the framework for learning and forming memories ... The discovery of a molecule that moves new receptors to the synapse so that the neuron... can respond more strongly helps to explain several observations about [brain] plasticity ... [The researchers] found that the myosin Vb molecule in hippocampal neurons responded to a flow of calcium ions from the synaptic space by popping up and into action. One end of the myosin is attached to meshlike actin filaments so it can 'walk' to the end of the nerve cells where receptors are. On its other end, it tows an endosome, a packet that contains new receptors. 'These endosomes are like little memories waiting to happen,' Ehlers said."
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Memory Molecule Identified

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  • by philspear (1142299) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @03:18AM (#25601113)

    I'm not sure they can call this a "memory molecule" so much as a "molecule responsible for changing the receptors at the synapse to make a memory." The molecule itself is not what memories are actually made of, which is what I would think of. The changed activity of the neuron is more akin to that. And it's also not specific to memories. The process of myosin Vb bringing endosomes to the surface is not unique to neurons, that's been known for a while (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11408590).

    That said, it's really interesting that they've identified this, as it not only tells you how the change is made, but also tells you the stimulus to change it.

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      It is part of the functioning of memory. I would class it as a memory molecule, but then again I am not a neurobiolist..
      • by Compuser (14899) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @04:36AM (#25601333)

        Myosin V is a major motor which hauls all kinds of stuff. Calling it a memory molecule is like calling a Volvo truck the food truck. Yes, it might be used to deliver food sometimes but it is much more than that.

        • by Poorcku (831174)
          ah yes, the car analogies...
        • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          So the brain is not a series of tubes?

        • by Prototek (937689)
          So the brain is like a big truck. Not a series of tubes?
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by alexj33 (968322)
      So this means the new Samsung brain-dump backup drives will be on the market by the end of the year.
    • by nbauman (624611)

      I'm not sure they can call this a "memory molecule" so much as a "molecule responsible for changing the receptors at the synapse to make a memory."

      I'll never ask you to write a headline.
      --
      "In describing genetic mechanisms, there is a choice between being inexact and incomprehensible" http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/1965/press.html [nobelprize.org]

    • Can this explain muscle memory too?

      • Uh... I'm honestly not sure if you were serious or making a very subtle joke. I think muscle memory is actually a product not of muscle itself but the neurons controlling it. In which case, yes, this could be controlling the conditioned pathways that cause "muscle memory." I'm pretty sure this is not the same myosin that makes up your muscles, so it's not directly the sarcomeres that could be doing anything like this. In any event, the myosin in your muscles are arranged in a different configuration tha

        • When it comes to scientific advancement in these fields ( as well as Alzeihmers memory being dubbed diabetes 3) I never joke, it is something I take quite seriously, ranging to being aware of testing environments also to trigger memories....sometimes even though this study tends to link it to a chemical reaction...I have noticed traumatic experiences that trigger a small release of adrenalin seems to also affect the memory. Someone being in a car accident relives it everyday as if they were in that accident

  • Sounds like pretty rough research to me. It might be the beginning of a breakthrough, but that remains to be seen. My take is: wait and see.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      And my take is that I'm going to start mixing energy shakes with myosin Vb (from ground up uncooked cattle brains). Photographic memory here I come! Yeehaw!

      • by MillionthMonkey (240664) * on Sunday November 02, 2008 @03:50AM (#25601211)

        I'm taking actin and will soon kick your ass. I will crush you with my contractile system and force feed you ATP with my sliding filaments as I hurl you in toward my M line.

        • by Koiu Lpoi (632570)
          What in god's name does that mean? It seems like it might be funny, but I'm not a biology geek.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Thiez (1281866)

            Wikipedia is your friend :)

            It appears actin is part of filaments which are a rather important part of the contractile system, which is the system that gets your muscle cells to contract (which makes you muscles move). I have not a clue what an M line is. ATP is an important chemical that your cells internally use for energy. Why one would force feed someone ATP is beyond me (AFAIK it does not do anything special when ingested).

            It appears MillionthMonkey is boosting his strength while Anonymous Coward is boo

            • The most worrying thing is that enough people got the joke to mod him 5, Funny.

            • Wikipedia is your friend :)

              Sometimes Google treats me with more respect though.

              M line
              n.
              A fine dark band in the center of the H band in the myofibrils of striated muscle fibers. Also called M band.

              A histological structure in myofibrils in skeletal muscle. The line runs transversely to the length of the myofibrils and corresponds to the segment occupied by myosin myofilaments.

              Source [thefreedictionary.com]

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MrMr (219533)
      Perhaps it is a piece of research that will not result in a product that somebody can sell at a huge profit, but will only increase our understanding of the world a little.
      Or is that too silly to consider?
      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by nih (411096)

        Perhaps it is a piece of research that will not result in a product that somebody can sell at a huge profit, but will only increase our understanding of the world a little. Or is that too silly to consider?

        DMCA takedown notice: You have one day to remove your comment since this infringes on my newly acquired patent no: 3,778,214

        • by kdemetter (965669)

          Perhaps it is a piece of research that will not result in a product that somebody can sell at a huge profit, but will only increase our understanding of the world a little.
          Or is that too silly to consider?

          (making a copy so it's harder to take down )

      • by julesh (229690)

        Perhaps it is a piece of research that will not result in a product that somebody can sell at a huge profit, but will only increase our understanding of the world a little.
        Or is that too silly to consider?

        You don't think a drug to improve ability to remember stuff you experience while you're taking it would sell?

      • Re:Sound rough (Score:5, Interesting)

        by dimeglio (456244) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @09:07AM (#25602249)

        I see here a possible method of improving AI. If we can indeed model synthetic neurons to perform in a similar way, we might have the key to designing more efficient captcha breaking systems.

        • Re:Sound rough (Score:4, Interesting)

          by mysticgoat (582871) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @11:22AM (#25603035) Homepage Journal

          Google on "artificial neural network" and read a few of the 600,000 hits that you will find. ANN theory is as old as digital computers. Commercial ANN applications have been growing in number and sophistication for over 10 years, e.g,, Dragon NaturallySpeaking and other speech recognition software, Caere OmniPage and other OCR packages.

          What TFA is about is reporting the discovery of a key part of the mechanism that changes the weighting factors in a neuron in a biological neural net. Of itself, I doubt that this will trigger any insights on how to improve ANNs: the frankenmeisters already know how to do that with the neurones they work with. But this does open the door for further research by biologists into wetware neural net mechanisms, and that could lead to some interesting things.

          • by dimeglio (456244)

            My point was that if we didn't know how human memory works, how can we replicate it?

            It's like Leonardo da Vinci when he tied to build a bird-like device in order to fly. It took, many centuries later, some insight into aerodynamics, to figure out that flying humans would not dress in bird suits in order to fly.

            Now if ANN have been around for only 10 years, we might still have a few more decades (if not centuries) to go before we better understand human memory and build something useful. I don't want to mini

            • I don't want to minimize the developments of tools such as Dragon Naturally Speaking but I can't really have an argument with the application or ask it why it exists.

              So you are holding out for AI that is self-aware, can use rational processes, and can communicate in a human language about metaphysical conjectures? Expecting to find a key to that kind sentience by studying the inner workings of neurons is similar to mastering compiler design by studying the details of semiconductor theory. Wrong scope; wrong field; won't work.

              In the meantime, OCR and speech recognition are narrow fields where AI is working very well, thank you. I am an agnostic about whether there is a

              • by dimeglio (456244)

                No, no my point was that we're really at the dawn of knowledge when it comes to tapping the potential of AI. Sorry if I wasn't clear. Granted, OCR does work but within narrow parameters, same with speach recognition.

                But your point in interesting. Aren't we simply an assembly of different smaller components which we call human? A bit like this other assembly of components standing in front of me which I call a computer. Part of those components is the "self awareness" which I eluded to. Maybe my computer is

        • by bmacs27 (1314285)

          Well, in line with your sig, here's a little pinch. The problem with faithfully modeling molecular computation is the massive parallelism inherent in physical interactions.

          That is fairly intractable presuming you want to run your model on a typical serial PC. You could certainly use something fancier like some sort of chemical/quantum computer, "wet ware" as was mentioned, or perhaps one of these massive clusters. Still, the data dependencies are not trivial, making many traditional forms of parallelis

      • by corbettw (214229)

        Perhaps it is a piece of research that will not result in a product that somebody can sell at a huge profit, but will only increase our understanding of the world a little.

        Why is it that some people think those are two mutually incompatible things? There's no reason we can't have a better understanding of the world, and enrich the people who made that understanding possible at the same time.

        • The problem with profitability is that it implies property. So while there are certainly profitable commercial products that enrich the world to some degree, it is arguable that those same products would be much better for the world if the concepts behind them were not kept proprietary.

          I don't know if you recall the exciting race to the finish for the Human Genome project. I'm not a geneticist, so I'll over-simplify: basically there was a team at UC Santa Cruz working on completing the map, and a priva
    • Deja Vu (Score:5, Funny)

      by CarpetShark (865376) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @04:50AM (#25601369)

      It might be the beginning of a breakthrough, but that remains to be seen. My take is: wait and see.

      That's what everyone said last time we discovered this, back in 1925, 1903, and 1871. Somehow, after discovering these molecules, everyone forgets to follow up.

      • Somehow, after discovering these molecules, everyone forgets to follow up.

        Come to think of it, yeah, I do remember something about making a virus that will temporarily get rid of myosin Vb to test in rats. But maybe that was just a dream. Hmm... well that sounds like a good logical next experiment to try. What could possibly go wrong?

    • IANAMB but the "walking molecule" can been seen in this awe inspiring animation [youtube.com].
    • by glwtta (532858)
      What sage advice! And here I was about to flip my shit and put all my money into myosin Vb factories, or something.
  • by symbolset (646467) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @03:37AM (#25601173) Journal

    The closer we are to immortal memory. That would be both good and bad. We would forever despair of our failures. We would always remember where we left our keys.

    Since all the other parts of a Man are capable of being restored through regressing any cell into a T-cell and then culturing it into the desired part, if this gets us to where we can keep the mind functional as well, then we've found Ponce deLeon's fountain of youth.

    That would be great, because there are only 6 billion of us, and that number was not growing nearly fast enough.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      That would be great, because there are only 6 billion of us, and that number was not growing nearly fast enough.

      Improved memory might actually slow that down. If certain memories weren't overriden by hormones etc, then memories of three A.M. feedings, diaper changes, child support etc might dissuade us from sex without birth control methods. Then there is the possibility of your partner never forgeting your "mistakes",,,,

      • Then there is the possibility of your partner never forgeting your "mistakes"

        Um, too late..women [wikipedia.org] already have that

      • by RockWolf (806901)

        Then there is the possibility of your partner never forgeting your "mistakes",,,,

        And that's different from what happens currently... How?

    • One of the most tragic parts of being human is that we forget the details of the romances of our youth.

      • by Creepy Crawler (680178) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @04:41AM (#25601349)

        No. By far, the most tragic happening of a human is that we die.

        20, 50, 100 years of happenings, memories.. All erased, with none ever being recoverable.

        That is a horrible thing that needs to be stopped at all costs, unless the person willfully chooses to do so. That being said, I am a Singultarian.

        • by Thiez (1281866) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @08:03AM (#25601915)

          > 20, 50, 100 years of happenings, memories.. All erased, with none ever being recoverable.

          Let's be honest, there are a lot of memories that are not important to anyone but the one who remembers them. When I die nobody will know which pair of socks I liked best, but the loss of this knowledge is hardly a loss for the human race. Even if I were write down the things about my life that I consider to be the most important in an autobiography, how many people would read it? Humanity is not interested in the thoughts and memories of random people.

          Write down the few happenings and memories that were relevant for (a large part of) the human race. The rest can be forgotten.

          > That is a horrible thing that needs to be stopped at all costs, unless the person willfully chooses to do so.

          I don't like people who are willing to accomplish some goal 'at all costs'.

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by Dusthead Jr. (937949)
            How do you explain YouTube? Humanity might not be interested in the thoughts of random people, but other randome people are.
          • i'm guessing you're not over 50 years old.

            even ordinary people can have extraordinary memories and experiences to share with others. just think about all the old people who lived through World War II, the civil rights movement, the birth of the modern computer, etc. there are a lot of things that we take for granted in our lives that future generations might be interested in but have no way of finding out about. imagine if we had access to the memories of just one person who lived during the height of the R

            • by ShakaUVM (157947)

              even ordinary people can have extraordinary memories and experiences to share with others. just think about all the old people who lived through World War II, the civil rights movement, the birth of the modern computer, etc. there are a lot of things that we take for granted in our lives that future generations might be interested in but have no way of finding out about

              Exactly!

              I work a lot with local history programs, where school teachers go out into their communities and interview the elderly... the stori

              • Every memory is important, regardless the place, incidence, or time. That's why it's such a tragedy to even lose one of those memories.

                And we lose millions of them per day.

                • by ShakaUVM (157947)

                  >>Every memory is important, regardless the place, incidence, or time. That's why it's such a tragedy to even lose one of those memories.
                  >>And we lose millions of them per day.

                  That's why I livejournal!

          • by pu'u_bear (137654)

            I wish you were correct, but:
            http://www.facebook.com/ [facebook.com]
            Appears to indicate the opposite...

        • by tjstork (137384) <todd@bandrowsky.gmail@com> on Sunday November 02, 2008 @08:40AM (#25602101) Homepage Journal

          Death is a part of the natural renewal of things. It is a short life span and the continual and restarting of youth that allows humanity to not only change its education but its social attitudes.

          Mourn the ones we lose, for sure, but ultimately, death is necessary. Without death, young people could never remake the world with each generation, and we'd be stuck forever with the weirdness of the old. Sometimes we old people, instead of clinging to life, just need accept that we're going to die.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Roxton (73137)

            As we get older, couldn't we just adopt a social system that makes us older instead of, you know, dying? Killing off the elderly is a pretty ham-handed solution.

            Unless you're just trying to rationalize the inevitable, in which case your sentiment is total garbage.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Roxton (73137)

            If that's your concern, couldn't we just adopt a social system where we get less relevant as we age? Killing off the elderly is a pretty fucking ham-handed solution.

            Unless you're just trying to rationalize the inevitable, in which case your sentiment is total garbage.

          • by sznupi (719324)

            Don't you think that one of the reasons for "weirdness" of old folks is not old age per se, but rather bitterness and frustration that comes with realisation that their end is becoming quite an immediate issue?

            Together with lots of young folks around enjoying their life this might lead to fixating oneself on memories of youth, perhaps also convincing oneself that the life was better when she/he were young (so it's easier to disregard "youth festival" around). For that it's only natural to clinge to outdated

          • Death is humanity's refresh cycle.
        • Well I'm a Christian, so for me, that cost has already been paid...

        • by symbolset (646467)

          No. By far, the most tragic happening of a human is that we die.

          If people ceased to die on their own, it would become necessary to kill them [imdb.com]. That's a tragedy of another kind.

    • ...immortal memory. That would be both good and bad. We would forever despair of our failures.

      What is it with people, thinking that failures have to haunt us forever? Failures are how people learn. There are such a things as closure, adaptation, pattern recognition, sublimation, and basic personal growth. You start failing before you're born, when you can't move your arms how you'd like to, can't interpret the images you're seeing, etc. Life is about facing these challenges, overcoming them, and enjoyin

  • I thought they were just worms that you got from that bad truck-stop sandwich jazzercising your brain.
  • by jonaskoelker (922170) <jonaskoelker&gnu,org> on Sunday November 02, 2008 @04:28AM (#25601315) Homepage

    myosin Vb molecule in hippocampal neurons responded to a flow of calcium ions

    "So remember to drink your milk, boys and girls, or you will forget how to."

    • On a more serious note...

      "We all know"---I really ought to find an article that backs me up on this, but I've heard it enough times from random sources so it must be true---we all know that breast milk is very good for babies.

      I'm wondering whether there's a large amount of calcium in breast milk, and whether that influences the babies' ability to form memories. The summary doesn't say whether the calcium acts as a "mere" catalyst or is used up in the process; but in any case, I'd guess that more is good.

      [I

      • I'm wondering whether there's a large amount of calcium in breast milk, and whether that influences the babies' ability to form memories.

        Yes. No.

        Long term (weeks to years) calcium balance is tightly controlled by regulating absorption and excretion. The short term (hours) level of free calcium in the blood is tightly regulated by adding or removing it from the large stores in the bones. These regulatory processes keep the amount of free calcium in the brain more or less constant under healthy condition

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The summary doesn't say whether the calcium acts as a "mere" catalyst or is used up in the process; but in any case, I'd guess that more is good.

        The calcium (Ca2+) signal is just due to a very temporary Ca2+ influx into the cell. The Ca2+ stems from the extracellular fluid and from intracellular Ca2+ stores. After excitation, Ca2+ gets immediately pumped out of the cytosol. None gets used up. (This is only half the truth: Some Ca2+ signals are lasting for minutes to hours.)

        [I also really should check whethe

      • by Thiez (1281866)

        > Google can probably give me answers, but I can't remember how to use it. I haven't had my milk today :)

        Adults drinking milk is a neat trick that has only been with us for about 10000 years. Milk is not required in the diet of adults (people from some parts of the world can't even digest it properly). Unless you have a diet-related disorder, such as diabetes, you don't usually have to worry about your food if you have at least some variety* in your diet. If you eat enough different stuff, your body will

        • by TheLink (130905)
          "Eating two different brands of fries != variety "

          That's no problem, just use different dips - tomato sauce, mayonnaise, etc.
      • by buswolley (591500)
        The word you are looking for is Anterograde Amnesia, not forward amnesia, though we get your point. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anterograde_amnesia [wikipedia.org]
      • Hmmm, both GABAnergic compounds (GHB, ethanol, sleeping pills) and weed block calcium channels, so that would explain the amnesia they create. But why do GABAnergic ones cause retrograde amnesia, while THC et al. fuck up short term memory? BTW, would the recpetors being moved in question happen to be serotonine ones? I really need to get rrid of the downer after taking XTC, GHB covers the dopamine part, but serotonine receptors need to be kept at the surface if I'm gonna roll for a week. Druggie genius over
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by ozbird (127571)

      myosin Vb molecule in hippocampal neurons responded to a flow of calcium ions

      "So remember to drink your milk, boys and girls, or you will forget how to."

      Forget milk; drink Vb [fosters.com.au] and alter your synapses directly.

      • by RockWolf (806901)
        I'd rather not... Boags' Premium for me. Doesn't leave you wanting to gouge your tastebuds out with a corkscrew. ;)
  • Australian's have known about the importance of Vb for years.

  • I am generally cautious whenever some researcher makes some discovery and goes "blah blah blah this IS what memory IS blah blah autism blah blah epilepsy blah blah addiction blah blah Alzheimer's blah blah blah"

    Anyway, the point is that it is highly unlikely that this ONE molecule can be implicated in that many disorders. It sounds to me like this guy may have found something very important in regulating one neurotransmitter, but fails to say which one. All of the disorders he mentions do deal with so
    • While you are very right in pointing out that a single molecule is very unlikely to instigate so many disorders, the mechanism by which this molecule acts (assuming it is upstream of all of the issues associated with the disorders) could be extremely useful in stepping around the issues.
      Biological systems are amazingly complex, but they tend to depend on very simple causal chains that have a lot of permutations which depend on the outcomes of other chains (similar to the neuronal structure of the brain). Wh

      • by RockoTDF (1042780)
        True, but the *likelihood* that this molecule does those things is quite small. The "we can connect our discovery to anything" approach that is occurring in some of the neuroscience areas could easily become a "boy who cried wolf" scenario. I can't think of how many articles I read recently where, someone is like "we've got XYZ solved!!" only to never hear anything about that research again.

        The bottom line is that too many news stories lead the public to believe that we are way further ahead than we a
  • by Ant P. (974313) on Sunday November 02, 2008 @10:15AM (#25602603) Homepage

    At least now we know why it's so unstable

  • "These endosomes are like little memories waiting to get stoned ."
  • Now that they have found it, who is going to measure its capacity. I simply hope it turns out to be in peta's.

With all the fancy scientists in the world, why can't they just once build a nuclear balm?

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