Memories may be stored on your DNA
2008 12 03

From: newscientist.com


In the film Blade Runner, Rachael's human qualities are the result of implanted memories and photographs that provide an historical past stretching back to her childhood.

Remember your first kiss? Experiments in mice suggest that patterns of chemical "caps" on our DNA may be responsible for preserving such memories.

To remember a particular event, a specific sequence of neurons must fire at just the right time. For this to happen, neurons must be connected in a certain way by chemical junctions called synapses. But how they last over decades, given that proteins in the brain, including those that form synapses, are destroyed and replaced constantly, is a mystery.

Now Courtney Miller and David Sweatt of the University of Alabama in Birmingham say that long-term memories may be preserved by a process called DNA methylation - the addition of chemical caps called methyl groups onto our DNA.

Many genes are already coated with methyl groups. When a cell divides, this "cellular memory" is passed on and tells the new cell what type it is - a kidney cell, for example. Miller and Sweatt argue that in neurons, methyl groups also help to control the exact pattern of protein expression needed to maintain the synapses that make up memories.

They started by looking at short-term memories. When caged mice are given a small electric shock, they normally freeze in fear when returned to the cage. However, then injecting them with a drug to inhibit methylation seemed to erase any memory of the shock. The researchers also showed that in untreated mice, gene methylation changed rapidly in the hippocampus region of the brain for an hour following the shock. But a day later, it had returned to normal, suggesting that methylation was involved in creating short-term memories in the hippocampus.

To see whether methylation plays a part in the formation of long-term memories, Miller and Sweatt repeated the experiment, this time looking at the uppermost layers of the brain, called the cortex.

They found that a day after the shock, methyl groups were being removed from a gene called calcineurin and added to another gene. Because the exact pattern of methylation eventually stabilised and then stayed constant for seven days, when the experiment ended, the researchers say the methyl changes may be anchoring the memory of the shock into long-term memory, not just controlling a process involved in memory formation.

"We think we're seeing short-term memories forming in the hippocampus and slowly turning into long-term memories in the cortex," says Miller, who presented the results last week at the Society for Neuroscience meeting in Washington DC.

"The cool idea here is that the brain could be borrowing a form of cellular memory from developmental biology to use for what we think of as memory," says Marcelo Wood, who researches long-term memory at the University of California, Irvine.

Article from: http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20026845.000-
memories-may-be-stored-on-your-dna.html


More:
Mystery of the Mind


Deep DNA memory theories: Can we remember our ancestors’ lives?


Philip K. Dick’s Phylogenic Memory and the Divine Fire



Related Articles
Deep DNA memory theories: Can we remember our ancestors’ lives?
DeoxyriboNucleic Acid (DNA)
Covalent Modification of DNA Regulates Memory Formation
Mystery of the Mind
Cellular memory
DNA methylation


Latest News from our Front Page

Norway Joins the Race to Develop Killer Robots
2014 10 24
Norway is a large exporter of weapons, which makes the resolution of the debate about creating killer robots an important issue for everyone.  One could debate the overall merits or failings of robotic systems, but an area that clearly has become a point for concern on all sides is the emergence of "killer robots." According to robotics pioneer, David Hanson, ...
Gene That Once Aided Survival in the Arctic Found to Have Negative Impact on Health Today
2014 10 23
In individuals living in the Arctic, researchers have discovered a gene variant that arose thousands of years ago and most likely provided an evolutionary advantage for processing high-fat diets or for surviving in a cold environment; however, the variant also seems to increase the risk of hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, and infant mortality in today’s northern populations. {snip} “Our work ...
The Ebola hoax: questions, answers, and the false belief in the “One It”
2014 10 23
“The Reality Manufacturing Company doesn’t just sell ‘fake paintings’ that are easy to spot. No. They also sell images that are geared to mesh with people’s deeply held instincts and thereby produce rigid false beliefs. People are sure that if they gave up such beliefs, their world would fall apart and blow away in the wind.” ...
New Controversial Theory Suggests "Hobbits" Were Not Human - Who Were These Mysterious Beings?
2014 10 23
The origin of the Hobbit species remains a challenging subject to scientists. The Hobbit’s discovery confirmed the view that the Earth was once populated by many species of human, but new research the Hobbit’s were not human at all! So, who were these mysterious beings? Where did they come from? The idea that our species, Homo sapiens, was the only species of human on ...
Right into enemy hands? ISIS shows off new weapons allegedly airdropped by US (VIDEO)
2014 10 23
Islamic State has published a new video in which a jihadist shows off brand-new American hardware, which was purportedly intended for the Kurds they are fighting in the Syrian border town of Kobani. The undated video, posted by the unofficial IS mouthpiece “a3maq news”, sees a jihadist showing several boxes of munitions with English-language markings, with a parachute spread out on ...
More News »