In a landmark breakthrough, scientists have created mice with unusually long memories raising hopes of people with severe forgetfulness and also opening a possibility of helping people forget their distressing past. "This study has given us a new insight into the molecular processes that govern memory and learning in the brain," said Isabelle Mansuy, of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich.
This breakthrough provides a number of exciting targets for research into human memory. Drugs could be developed to help people who lose their memories through old age or with Alzheimer's disease. These findings have been published in the journal - Cell.
British, American, Swiss and French scientists conducted this study in which mice were created with a gene that blocks the function of a signaling protein called calcineurin in the brain. Calcineurin is thought to be a natural constraint on long-term memory. It speeds up the rate at which electrical signals in the brain die away, so that the messages they carry are not stored for long periods.
When its action is blocked, electrical signals fade more slowly, and information is retained for long periods.
These mice were put to a maze test and the way they navigated the maze was studied. It was found that these mice remembered objects and surroundings three days longer than other mice.
These results have convinced the researchers that they can develop drugs to treat failing memory of patients with dementia or brain damage. They also plan to induce people suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder to forget disturbing experiences.
How far this is successful remains to be seen. A mouse hunt of a different type is now in the offing!