Memory Reversal in Animal Brain Cells

At the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, a team of neuroscientists came up with an idea on a possible, and hopefully future, cure for memory loss diseases. As of right now, they have only tested on sea-snail nerve cells, but this is quite a significant advancement.

One would ask, “Why sea-snail cells?” but the answer it quite simple. Dr. John “Jack” Byrne, Ph.D., Yili, Zhang, Ph.D., and Rong-Yu Liu, Ph.D., have said that the snails’ cells share similar characteristics with more superior species, including humans. Now to continue with the questions of “how?” the team understood that they needed to find when the cells were most prepared for learning. In other words, they began retraining the cells with enhanced training schedules that range from five to fifty minutes long and up to five days a week. Zhang, a co-leader in the experiment, created a mathematical formula that can identify when the cell’s biochemical process is at its prime for learning. With this regime, the cells seemed to be reversing their memory.

In The Journal of Neuroscience, Dr. Byrne has stated, “Although much words remains to be done, we have demonstrated the feasibility of our new strategy to help overcome memory deficits.” This study is an extended effort that began in early 2012, which showed a substantial increase in the sea snails’ long-term memory. Because the cells have a similar genetic make-up to humans, their cells work the same way when it comes to a memory issue. “The logical follow-up question was whether you could use the same strategy to overcome a deficit in memory [in humans]. Memory is due to a change in the strength of the connections among neurons. In many disease associated with memory deficits, the change is blocked,” said Byrne. And with that simple logical question, new doors have been opened to finding a treatment for memory-loss diseases.