Memory-Making Filmed Inside a Brain
Scientists at the Yeshiva University’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine have been able to film memories being made inside a mouse’s brain and have posted the video online.
The complete research has been described in two papers, both published in the journal Science, and explains how specific molecules in the brain can be fluorescently highlighted, or ‘tagged’.
Messenger RNA (mRNA) is a group of Ribonucleic Acid (RNA) molecules that direct where beta-actin proteins travel. Beta-actin proteins are crucial to making memories, and by highlighting the molecules it is easier for scientists to observe the way and direction of travel of the proteins, but in real time and in a living brain.
The researchers said that one of the problems they faced in the past regarding how to discover how neurons make memories, is the sensitivity of them. Any disruption could cause a lot of damage, but the scientists found that by gently “probing their innermost workings” they were able to see how the processes of the molecules resulted in memories.
A great aspect of the research is that the mice were not harmed or negatively affected by the process, and were still able to reproduce. “It’s noteworthy that we were able to develop this mouse without having to use an artificial gene or other interventions that might have disrupted neurons and called our findings into question,” said lead researcher Dr Robert Singer PhD.
The first paper, describing the work of Hye Yoon Park PhD, instructor at Einstein and former student of Dr Singer’s, explains the development of the mice containing the fluorescent highlighting. It also explained that stimulating the neurons in the hippocampus – the part of the brain responsible for memories – showed the scientists the molecules travelling to their destinations.
However, the natural condition for mRNA molecules in neurons is to be closed and unaccessible, or ‘masked’. But in the second paper, Adina Buxbaum’s research showed that stimulating the neurons would ‘unmask’ the molecules “in frequent, controlled bursts”, explained Dr Singer, “causing beta-actin protein to accumulate precisely where it’s needed.” Ms Buxbaum’s research also showed that neurons are unique in their ability to recreate the beta-actin protein inside the brain.
This latest research could lead to a whole range of developments when it comes to studies of the brain and memory, and other methods of mapping memories inside the brain, such as infrared fluorescent tagging. Knowledge is power, and the more knowledge we can get about the workings of our brains, the more research can be put into memory problems and conditions, such as Alzheimer’s.
Right now, though, let’s marvel in the amazing footage of memories being made inside a mouse’s brain (click the link to view):