Study Identifies Key Genes in Brain Involved in Encoding Memories

University of Texas Southwestern (UTSW) scientists have identified key genes involved in brain waves that are pivotal for encoding memories. The findings, published online on March 8, 2021 in Nature Neuroscience, could eventually be used to develop novel therapies for people with memory loss disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. The article is titled “Gene-Expression Correlates of the Oscillatory Signatures Supporting Human Episodic Memory Encoding” ( Making a memory involves groups of brain cells firing cooperatively at various frequencies, a phenomenon known as neural oscillations. However, explain study leaders Bradley C. Lega, MD, Associate Professor of Neurological Surgery, Neurology, and Psychiatry, and Genevieve Konopka, PhD, Associate Professor of Neuroscience, the genetic basis of this process is not clear. “There’s a famous saying for 100 years in neuroscience: ‘Neurons that fire together will wire together,’” says Dr. Lega. “We know that cells involved in learning fire in groups and form new connections because of the influence of these oscillations. But how genes regulate this process in people is completely unknown.” Dr. Lega and Dr. Konopka, both members of UTSW’s Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute, collaborated on a previous study to explore this question, collecting data on neural oscillations from volunteers and using statistical methods to connect this information to data on gene activity collected from postmortem brains. Although these results identified a promising list of genes, Dr. Konopka says, there was a significant shortcoming in the research: The oscillation and genetic data came from different sets of individuals.
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