In one of the recent studies conducted in the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), a ground
breaking discovery has been made and that has led to a greater understanding of the way the mind
works in creating memories and storing them.
According to the lead author, David Glanzman who belongs to the departments of Integrative Biology,
Physiology and Neurobiology in UCLA, people who have suffered from memory loss may be able to
retrieve their memories if the nerve cells are allowed to regenerate and bridge the damaged
connections in the brain.
This particular theory is contrary to the understanding of the normal physiologic function, according to
which, memories are made when neurons make new synapses and are lost when these synapses are
broken and re-bridged; remodelling the basic structure of the brain as well as assisting in making new
Glanzman, however, does not believe it to be so. According to him “Long-term memory is not stored at
the synapse. That’s a radical idea, but that’s where the evidence leads.”
According to the research, done on Aplysias (snails), it was found that serotonin was released in the
central nervous system, as a defensive response to trauma, and caused increased synapse formation.
Over a series of experiments the researchers saw that inhibition of protein synthesis in the central
nervous system produces memory loss, regardless of the levels of serotonin.
The time when the protein synthesis inhibitor was added was crucial too. A 24 hour span was required
to consolidate the memories. When the drug was injected within 24 hours, the long term memory was
lost and when it was injected after 24 hours, the memory could not be disrupted.
According to the study, the snails were able to regenerate their neuronal synapses and in time their long
term memory as well.
“The nervous system appears to be able to regenerate lost synaptic connections. If you can restore the
synaptic connections, the memory will come back. It won’t be easy, but I believe it’s possible,” explained
He also believes that this could be a turning point in many long term debilitating and degenerative
disorders of the brain.
“As long as the neurons are still alive, the memory will still be there, which means you may be able to
recover some of the lost memories in the early stages of Alzheimer’s,” he said.