How is it that some of us so clearly remember memories from the earliest years of life on this earth while the rest of us struggle in vain to find a shred of anything that would awaken those sleeping beauties and bring them to the surface to let us to rejoice in?
It’s scary to lose memories, especially in the early phases of diseases like Alzheimer’s — you’re really losing part of yourself. Thankfully, researchers at UCLA may have found a way to get those memories back. They’ve conducted experiments suggesting that memories aren’t stored in synapses, as established theory dictates. Instead, you only need to make sure that neurons are intact and that the brain can synthesize the proteins needed to form new synaptic links. In a snail, memories came rushing back after scientists stopped using a protein synthesis inhibitor that curbed synaptic growth. Those memories would have been gone forever if the synapses themselves were really the key.
Think back to a really vivid memory. Got it? Now try to remember what you had for lunch three weeks ago. That second memory probably isn’t as strong—but why not? Why do we remember some things, and not others? And why do memories eventually fade? Catharine Young gives the basics on memory and memory loss.
How memories form and how we lose them
How to Retrieve Lost Memories
The latest research shows memories “lost” to amnesia aren’t gone forever; they’re just not accessible. Mice certainly aren’t men, but they can teach us a lot about memories. And in the latest experiments, mice are helping to resolve a long-simmering debate about what happens to “lost” memories. Are they wiped out permanently, or are they still there, but just somehow out of reach?
Researchers in the lab of Susumu Tonegawa at the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at MIT conducted a series of studies using the latest light-based brain tracking techniques to show that memories in certain forms of amnesia aren’t erased, but remain intact and potentially retrievable. Their findings, published Thursday in the journal Science, are based on experiments in mice, but they could have real implications for humans, too