Do long-term memories punch holes in the brain?

How the brain encodes and stores memories is one of the enduring mysteries of neuroscience. Memories are thought to be encoded by the strengthening of synaptic connections, and many researchers believe that they are retained by proteins at the synapses. And yet, while memories can persist over our entire lifetimes, these synaptic proteins are continuously being destroyed and replaced, over a time-frame of hours or days.

Several years ago, neuroscientist Roger Tsien of the University of California, San Diego, proposed that long-term memories are stored in patterns of holes created within a lattice-like structure called the perineuronal net. Sakina Palida, a graduate student in Tsien’s lab, presented evidence for such a ‘punch-card’ mechanism at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in Chicago earlier this month.

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Brain’s immune cells hyperactive in schizophrenia

The brain’s immune cells are hyperactive in people who are at risk of developing schizophrenia, as well as during the earliest stages of the disease, according to a new study by researchers at the MRC Clinical Sciences Centre in London. The findings, published today in the American Journal of Psychiatry, suggest that inflammatory processes play an important role in the development of the disease, and raise the possibility that it could be treated with drugs that block or reduce this cellular response.

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