Do you remember where you were when you heard about the World Trade Center attack? For many it is a memory they will never forget. But why? A new study finds lasting memories are formed with a process that involves the enzyme known as protein kinase C.
Researchers from Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center reported on their study at the annual meeting of the Society of Neuroscience in New Orleans. Researchers say the enzyme that helps turn a one-time experience into a long-term memory has been identified in mice.
For the research, scientists studied female mice and how they remembered their mating partner. They discovered that with only one exposure at mating, the mice can later recognize their partner's scent. After mating, a female mouse exposed to the scent of a strange male will not continue her pregnancy. On the other hand, a female exposed to her partner's scent even a month after mating will continue her pregnancy. Investigators say this means the female memorizes her partner's scent during the mating process.
Researchers say norepinephrine is a chemical released in the brain during emotional or exciting situations. For the study, the scientists collected data from the mouse brain to see how norepinephrine plays a role in memories. Their research suggests the enzyme protein kinase C plays a fundamental role in turning a one-time event into a lasting memory. The enzyme activates genes to express certain proteins. How the enzyme is related to gene expression is currently under study.
Current research is trying to identify the genes associated with memory in mice. Lead study author Ashok Hegde, Ph.D., says, "The details might be different in mice and people, but we think the mechanism will be the same."