According to researchers in a study working with animals say they have located the genes related to memory and learning. Although the research is early, they say it could one day lead to better treatments for memory and learning disorders. Researchers say previous research into this area was only able to locate a few genes and didn't provide a comprehensive understanding of how the genes work together during memory formation. They say this study provides a deeper understanding.
Rats were put through a standard learning task and then researchers used technology called cDNA to screen thousands of genes. They looked at genes in the hippocampus area, a brain region known to be important in learning and memory. The researchers checked the genes one hour after the task, six hours later, and then 24 hours later.
They say learning affected 140 different genes. They found a gene called fibroblast growth factor (FGF-18) increased at all times during the learning process. By injecting FGF-18 directly into the rat's brain they were able to increase the amount of learning.
This research is still too early to know how it will affect learning in the future, however, the researchers speculate it may one day help doctors develop treatments to improve memory and possibly even help Alzheimer's patients.