Sunday, June 17, 2007

Your Genes and Your Memory


Since my last post on Eric Kandel's In Search of Memory regarding the cellular neurobiology of the brain, I've continued to follow Kandel's discussion as he moves into molecular biology and the role which genes play in memory formation. Kandel draws three fascinating conclusions: 1) Activating long-term memory requires the switching on of genes. 2) To switch on these genes, one kind of protein must be activated and another kind, which suppresses memory-enhancing genes, must be turned off: "The fact that  a gene must be switched on to form long-term memory shows clearly that genes are not simply determinants of behavior but are also responsive to envirnonment stimulation, such as learning." There is a biological constraint on what experiences get stored in memory. (3) The growth and maintenance of new synaptic terminals makes memory persist. "Therefore, to rephrase Kandel, if you remember later anything of this post, it will be because your brain is slightly different after you have finished reading it." 276

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