Memory and neurons are two of the most prevalent topics investigated by the scientific community today. With so many memory-related neurodegenerative diseases affecting the population and increasing in number, it is more important than ever to understand how the human brain works. This is why it is so exciting that researchers have made an interesting discovery in the memory consolidation process.
A team of researchers, led by professors from various universities, made the discovery. Accredited to McGill University in Canada, the team’s lead professors were Dr. Nahum Sonenberg and Dr. Arkady Khoutorsky of McGill, Dr. Kobi Rosenblum of the University of Haifa in Israel, and Dr. Jean-Claude Lacaille of the University of Montreal. in Canada.
Their research found that there are two different neural systems involved in memory consolidation and that each can be independently targeted to control long-term memory. This discovery leads to the possibility of specific treatments for neurodegeneratives such as Alzheimer’s disease and autism.
Understanding research can be difficult if you don’t know a few basic concepts. This article will explain what neurons are, how memory worksand how the two neural systems contribute to the memory process. Read on for more information.
How does memory work?
Human memory it is a complex process in which people obtain and retain information. It is an understatement to say that memory is important; without it, a person cannot function at all. From the moment a baby is born, memory allows him to become a functional person.
According to researchers from Harvard UniversityThere are levels, or systems, of memory that psychologists refer to as “dual process” memory. The first is where “unconscious” actions are stored and retrieved. This includes walking, talking, and all the other routine actions that people do without really thinking about them.
The second is conscious memory, where the things you are trying to remember are stored and retrieved. For the second system to work properly, it must work in conjunction with system one.
Each of the systems operates in three phases: information encoding, storage and retrieval. There are two types of storage that you may be familiar with. They are short term memory and long term memory. Information is first encoded in short-term memory and then transferred to long-term memory upon retention.
Short-term memory can only hold five to nine bits of information at a time for a maximum of 30 seconds. The more this information is repeated, the more likely it is to be transferred to long-term memory. From there, brain You can remember the information when needed.
Memory systems are made up of nerve cells called neurons. In fact, neurons are the building blocks of the entire brain and central nervous system.
Researchers don’t know exactly how many neurons the brain and central nervous system have, but they estimate the number to be around 100 million. They are divided into three main systems and, as indicated in the research, two of these systems are now known to aid in the memory process.
The two neural systems involved in memory
Neural systems are called the function of neurotransmitters contained in the system. These are chemicals that send messages between nerve cells (called synapse) in the brain. There are more than 40 neurotransmitters in the brain, classified into three neural systems.
The two neural systems that the McGill researchers focused on are the most important for daily functioning. They are the excitatory and inhibitory systems.
The system name precisely identifies what these neurons do. They “excite” the brain. Another way to put it is that they are more likely to trigger the receptor neuron into action.
For example, you can thank histamine for your allergic reactions. This is what makes your immune system flush out foreign irritants that enter your body. Sure, the allergic reaction doesn’t feel right, but it’s your body’s way of protecting you.
Excitatory neurotransmitters are:
This is the most important neurotransmitter in the brain. It is present in more 90% of brain synapses. Because it is so important, your glutamate levels must be well regulated or nerve cell death can occur. This can lead to serious neurological diseases and conditions.
This neurotransmitter can be used in both the excitatory and the inhibitory systems. It is an important actor in the parasympathetic nervous system responsible for contracting muscles, slowing the heart rate, dilating blood vessels, and regulating body secretions. People with Alzheimer’s disease often have a severe shortage of ACh.
This neurotransmitter exists in many living organisms. It is responsible for activating the immune system in case of physical damage, infection or allergic reaction in humans. Histamine allows blood vessels to dilate and become more permeable. This allows the cells of the immune system to leak out of the blood vessels, travel to the injured site, and begin the healing process.
This is the neurotransmitter responsible for your pleasure and reward reaction. In other words, it is the neurotransmitter for “feel good”. Dopamine Production increases with the excitement of something rewarding and decreases with disappointment or the end of the exciting activity. It is also responsible for many other functions of the body.
Along with adrenaline (next on the list), this neurotransmitter is responsible for regulating your reaction to stress. Helps increase heart rate and blood pressure when you need it. It is also an important factor in regulating your mood. It can cause mood reactions from euphoria to depression.
Epinephrine (Epi) (adrenaline)
Epi, better known as adrenaline, is a neurotransmitter that is also considered a hormone due to its function outside of neurons in the brain. He is responsible for the Fight or fly response in times of stress. Because it significantly increases cardiac output, physicians use it to treat severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis), respiratory distress, and attempts at resuscitation during CPR delivery. It is available in EpiPen form when needed in an emergency.
Inhibitory neurotransmitters are the exact opposite of excitatory neurotransmitters; they are likely to cause receptor neuron inaction. We can see an example of this in the role of serotonin. It acts as a regulator of excitatory neurotransmitters, essentially dampening their effect. A simple way to put it is that it is a mood regulator. In fact, researchers believe that a imbalance in serotonin It could contribute to the ups and downs of a bipolar person’s mood.
Inhibitory neurotransmitters are:
Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)
Is neurotransmitter it is also an amino acid. It is responsible for giving it a calming effect in times of anxiety, stress, and fear. GABA supplements have become popular as this amino acid is not found in many foods.
As explained above, it helps regulate your mood. It also helps with digestion, sleep, and eating. It can also help control your bowel movements.
This neurotransmitter was explained in the previous section, as it is also an excitatory neurotransmitter.
How these systems affect memory
Researchers had already been exploring the idea that the excitatory system regulates memory. This occurs through an essential factor for protein synthesis called eIF2α, which is in the hippocampus. However, thanks to the work of researchers at McGill University, we now know that the inhibitory system also has the essential factor eIF2α.
Stimulating the essential factor eIF2α in both the excitatory and inhibitory systems improves long-term memory storage. However, studies show that, in the excitatory system, phosphorylation of an eIF2α subunit can inhibit the transition of information from short-term memory to long-term memory. This subunit of eIF2α is the central component of the integrated stress response (ISR).
This is where the inhibitory system comes into play. When phosphorylation of the eIF2α subunit occurs in the inhibitor system, this inhibits the IRS, causing exactly the opposite effect: an increased ability of the brain to transition information from short-term memory to long-term memory.
How this discovery can be used
Now that researchers have discovered that a genetic change in the essential inhibitory system factor eIF2α can improve long-term memory storage, they hope to create treatments for people with neurodegenerative diseases that point to this genetic change. This is significant because of the way the IRS relates to neurodegenerative diseases.
Some people have a certain version of the apolipoprotein E allele, which is a major factor in the development of neurodegenerative diseases. Known as ApoE4, this version of the allele creates an integrated stress response. Cellular stress signals are what lead to phosphorylation of eIF2α in the excitatory system.
The idea of being able to manipulate the phosphorylation of eIF2α will counteract the effects of the ApoE4 allele. In theory, if the allele cannot activate the IRS system, neuron degeneration will not occur. According to Dr. Nahum Sonenberg, scientists hope to use this new development to create preventive and post-diagnostic treatments for people with neurodegenerative diseases.
The discovery of the role of neurons in the inhibitory system of memory regulation is a breakthrough in the scientific and medical communities. To this day, there are no cures for neurodegenerative diseases, and treatments only prolong the inevitable. Diagnoses of these diseases are always fatal, even if it takes years. The affected person will suffer an increasingly diminished quality of life for as long as it takes to succumb to the disease.
With new cases of neurodegenerative diseases on the rise every year, humanity desperately needs a cure or at least an effective treatment. Research has a long way to go, but this discovery offers a ray of hope to people at risk of cognitive diseases.