Brain protein that helps us learn and remember things identified

November 22nd, 2007 - 12:30 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, November 22 (ANI): A study of rats brains at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine has revealed the protein that helps people learn and remember what they have learnt.

The protein that allows the brain do this is called kalirin-7, say the researchers.

Given that people with Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia have reduced levels of Kalirin in their brains, the researchers believe that the discovery of kalirin’s role in learning offers new insight into the pathophysiology of these disorders.

“Identifying the key role of this protein in learning and memory makes it a new target for future drug therapy to treat or delay the progression of these diseases,” said Peter Penzes, lead author of the study and assistant professor of physiology at the Feinberg School.

Writing about their findings in the journal Neuron, the researchers have revealed that kalirin behaves like a personal trainer for the human memory.

According to their report, when people learn something new, kalirin bulks up the synaptic spines in their brain, which resemble tiny, white mushrooms. The spines grow bigger and stronger as the lesson is repeated.

The researchers say that it works the same whether a person is learning a new cell phone number, skiing a new double black diamond slope, or testing a pumpkin cheesecake recipe.

Synaptic spines are the sites in the brain where brain cells talk to each other.

“If these sites are bigger, the communication is better. A synapse is like a volume dial between two cells. If you turn up the volume, communication is better. Kalirin makes the synaptic spines grow,” Penzes said.

The researcher says that kalirin’s role in learning and memory helps explain why continued intellectual activity and learning delay cognitive decline in old age.

“It’s important to keep learning so your synapses stay healthy,” Penzes said. (ANI)

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