THURSDAY, April 19, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- American and Canadian scientists say a protein called CREB plays a major role in telling brain cells whether or not to store memories.
Reported in the April 20 Science, the finding suggests a new approach to preserving memories in people with Alzheimer's disease or other types of brain disease and injury.
"Making a memory is not a conscious act. Learning triggers a cascade of chemicals in the brain that influence which memories are kept and which are lost," principal investigator Alcino Silva, professor of neurobiology and psychiatry at UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine, said in a prepared statement.
"Earlier studies have linked the CREB protein to keeping memories stable. We suspected it also played a key role in channeling memories to brain cells that are ready to store them," Silva said.
Tests with mice showed that was indeed the case.
"We discovered that the amount of CREB influences whether or not the brain stores a memory. If a cell is low in CREB, it is less likely to keep a memory. If the cell is high in CREB, it is more likely to store the memory," Silva said.
This finding may help improvement treatment.
"By artificially manipulating CREB levels among groups of cells, we can determine where the brain stores its memories. This approach could potentially be used to preserve memory in people suffering from Alzheimer's or other brain injury. We may be able to guide memories into healthy cells and away from sick cells in dying regions of the brain," Silva said.
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about memory and aging.