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New Study Uncovers the Costs of Long-Term Memory Formation: Brain Inflammation and DNA Damage

Remembering something for the long haul might not be as straightforward as we thought, according to new research that sheds light on the hidden costs of memory formation. The study, conducted by an international team of researchers, suggests that the process of embedding memories into neurons involves inflammation in the brain and DNA damage in nerve cells.

Led by neuroscientist Jelena Radulovic from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, the study focused on understanding how memories are stored in the brain and the biological mechanisms involved in the process. Their findings challenge conventional wisdom, revealing that some level of inflammation in certain neurons of the hippocampus – the brain’s memory center – is crucial for the formation of long-lasting memories.

Using mice as test subjects, the researchers triggered episodic memory by subjecting the animals to brief, mild electric shocks. Analysis of hippocampal neurons showed activation of genes in the Toll-Like Receptor 9 (TLR9) pathway, which plays a key role in inflammatory signaling. Interestingly, this pathway was activated only in clusters of neurons, coinciding with DNA damage observed in these regions.

While DNA breaks in the brain are common and usually repaired swiftly, the study found that memory formation involves more significant changes, with mechanisms typically associated with cell division being repurposed to organize neurons into memory-forming clusters without actual cell division. These inflammatory editing processes persisted for about a week, after which the memory-storing neurons became more resistant to external influences, effectively locking in the memories.

However, when the TLR9 inflammatory pathway was blocked in the mice, they were unable to form memories of the electric shocks. Moreover, blocking TLR9 resulted in more severe DNA damage, akin to that seen in neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

The study’s findings have broad implications, not only for understanding memory formation but also for potential therapeutic interventions. The TLR9 pathway, previously considered a target for treating long-term COVID-19, may need to be reevaluated in light of its role in memory formation. Ultimately, the research provides valuable insights into the intricate mechanisms underlying memory storage in the brain and opens new avenues for exploring the complexities of neurological processes.

“This study highlights the intricate interplay between inflammation, DNA damage, and memory formation in the brain,” says Radulovic. “Understanding these mechanisms not only deepens our knowledge of how memories are stored but also holds promise for developing novel therapies for neurological disorders.”

The research, published in Nature, represents a significant step forward in unraveling the mysteries of the human brain and underscores the remarkable adaptability and complexity of neural systems in encoding and preserving memories across species. New Study Uncovers the Costs of Long-Term Memory Formation: Brain Inflammation and DNA Damage

Remembering something for the long haul might not be as straightforward as we thought, according to new research that sheds light on the hidden costs of memory formation. The study, conducted by an international team of researchers, suggests that the process of embedding memories into neurons involves inflammation in the brain and DNA damage in nerve cells.

Led by neuroscientist Jelena Radulovic from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, the study focused on understanding how memories are stored in the brain and the biological mechanisms involved in the process. Their findings challenge conventional wisdom, revealing that some level of inflammation in certain neurons of the hippocampus – the brain’s memory center – is crucial for the formation of long-lasting memories.

Using mice as test subjects, the researchers triggered episodic memory by subjecting the animals to brief, mild electric shocks. Analysis of hippocampal neurons showed activation of genes in the Toll-Like Receptor 9 (TLR9) pathway, which plays a key role in inflammatory signaling. Interestingly, this pathway was activated only in clusters of neurons, coinciding with DNA damage observed in these regions.

While DNA breaks in the brain are common and usually repaired swiftly, the study found that memory formation involves more significant changes, with mechanisms typically associated with cell division being repurposed to organize neurons into memory-forming clusters without actual cell division. These inflammatory editing processes persisted for about a week, after which the memory-storing neurons became more resistant to external influences, effectively locking in the memories.

However, when the TLR9 inflammatory pathway was blocked in the mice, they were unable to form memories of the electric shocks. Moreover, blocking TLR9 resulted in more severe DNA damage, akin to that seen in neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

The study’s findings have broad implications, not only for understanding memory formation but also for potential therapeutic interventions. The TLR9 pathway, previously considered a target for treating long-term COVID-19, may need to be reevaluated in light of its role in memory formation. Ultimately, the research provides valuable insights into the intricate mechanisms underlying memory storage in the brain and opens new avenues for exploring the complexities of neurological processes.

“This study highlights the intricate interplay between inflammation, DNA damage, and memory formation in the brain,” says Radulovic. “Understanding these mechanisms not only deepens our knowledge of how memories are stored but also holds promise for developing novel therapies for neurological disorders.”

The research, published in Nature, represents a significant step forward in unraveling the mysteries of the human brain and underscores the remarkable adaptability and complexity of neural systems in encoding and preserving memories across species.

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Reference: https://www.sciencealert.com/every-new-memory-you-make-causes-damage-to-your-brain-cells

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