Princeton Study Reveals Over 750 Genes Involved in Long-Term Memory

A new study has identified genes involved in long-term memory in the worm as part of research aimed at finding ways to retain cognitive abilities during aging. The study, which was published in the January 21, 2015 issue of the journal Neuron, identified more than 750 genes involved in long-term memory, including many that had not been found previously and that could serve as targets for future research, said senior author Dr. Coleen Murphy (photo), an associate professor of molecular biology and the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics Director of Paul F. Glenn Laboratories for Aging Research at Princeton University. R. Murphy is also the Robert B. Fisher Preceptor in Integrative Genomics at Princeton. "We want to know, are there ways to extend memory?" Dr. Murphy said. "And eventually, we would like to ask, are there compounds that could maintain memory with age?" The newly pinpointed genes are "turned on" by a molecule known as CREB (cAMP-response element-binding protein), a factor known to be required for long-term memory in many organisms, including worms and mice. "There is a pretty direct relationship between CREB and long-term memory," Dr. Murphy said, "and many organisms lose CREB as they age." By studying the CREB-activated genes involved in long-term memory, the researchers hope to better understand why some organisms lose their long-term memories as they age. To identify the genes, the researchers first instilled long-term memories in the worms by training them to associate meal-time with a butterscotch smell. Trained worms were able to remember that the butterscotch smell means dinner for about 16 hours, a significant amount of time for the worm. The researchers then scanned the genomes of both trained worms and non-trained worms, looking for genes turned on by CREB.
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