Scientists Find Key to Long Term Memory

Posted 7 Sep 2006 at 03:00 UTC by steve Share This

Randy M. Dumse of New Micros sent us a link to a Science Daily article on a breakthrough in the understanding of human long term memory. Researchers at SUNY Downstate Medical Center including Andre A. Fenton and Todd C. Sacktor have discovered the molecular mechanism that maintains long term memories. An enzyme known as protein kinase M zeta maintains memories by persistently strengthening synaptic connections between neurons. Blocking the enzyme erases the associated memory. Removing the block allows new long term memories to be stored. The discovery could lead to a method of selectively erasing human memories as easily "as you might erase a computer disc". The researchers suggest using selective erasure to treat neuropathic pain, dystonia, or post-traumatic stress. They don't mention the dozens of ethically problematic uses of memory manipulation that have been explored in science fiction. Let's see, Philip K. Dick's Paycheck suggests erasing memories of employees who do reverse engineering. In the film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, characters erase memories of bad relationships. I've lost count of how many times crews of the Starships Enterprise had their memories wiped, replaced, or manipulated. What about a memory bomb that erases the memories of your enemies? This discovery should have the ethics department working overtime. For more information on the research see the SUNY news release or the abstract for their paper.

but, posted 7 Sep 2006 at 11:59 UTC by c6jones720 » (Master)

How do you know which clusters of neurons correspond to which memory?

Answer to living,evolving Robot machines found?, posted 7 Sep 2006 at 18:53 UTC by marev » (Observer)

Fascinating discovery,got to look into this new discovery and story further but initial thoughts are about removing bad memories/post traumatic stress memories,filling the patients minds with a void then as a result victims of tradegy/crime people could within a few months be free of the expierience and back to normality for the rest of their lives.By removing the bad memories of people that have only learnt to fight and battle (as in other countries especially) then you could regain just societies and hopes in places where there (especially recently) has be proven to be no real understanding of this,resulting in the probable future of a return to chaos and fighting.Also there is the point about zeta and neurons that are artificial being implanted into robots so that machines have a memory,are able to learn and adapt and ANSWER the whole question about living learning machines,that progress/evolve by themselves,may well do another reply on this,cheers.

rm -rf /, posted 7 Sep 2006 at 19:09 UTC by tbenedict » (Master)

Keep in mind that the quote you cite was written by the author of the article and not the researchers themselves. Even though our grasp of neurochemistry is improving, our ability to execute chemical changes on a microscopic level is still in its infancy. For example, the neurochemistry of Tourette Syndrome has been under constant research for the past thirty years, and the chemistry itself is increasingly well-understood. But treatment still equates to flooding the entire brain with a carefully titrated mix of neurotransmitters and inhibitors. To apply this same model to this new discovery, a closer analogy would be that we could erase someone's memory like degaussing the entire disk rather than just deleting selected files.

More exciting to me than the ability to erase memories is the ability to understand and potentially slow or stop processes that are already doing this. I'm glad the article mentioned the potential impact on treatment of Alzheimer's. There are scads of conditions that can cause long term memory loss. If this can help us understand the mechanisms behind them, that's exciting.

And yes, there are some serious ethical questions involved with this discovery, not the least being what a hospital would do if someone was inadvertently wiped. But there are always ethical questions attached to discovery. It's what we choose to do with the things we learn that define who we are.

Great Find,Initial research could cure Alzheimers., posted 10 Sep 2006 at 16:13 UTC by marev » (Observer)

Maybe to stop alzheimers in all people the chemicals just need to be kept constant as when the person was younger,to cure it through just stopping the lesser flow associated with age.This must also apply to many other conditions like you just mentioned and when the mind is functioning properly the body hosting these conditions can get itself togeather.So basicaly the initial part of all the learning about this new brain memory process should be the simple bit about keeping this chemical reacting with the neurons at all stages of life.....No Alzheimers then.

3, posted 10 Sep 2006 at 17:20 UTC by marev » (Observer)

Maybe to cure Alzheimers just supply extra Kinase M Zeta to the patients Neurons!!! then further work to understand all other brain illnesses relation to the enzyme.

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