A small protein in the brain plays a role in strengthening memories. (Advanced Cell Technology,…)
Researchers have identified a protein that appears to play a major role in strengthening memories. The protein, called neuropeptide S, has already been found to contribute to feelings of calmness and being alert.
In the new study, mice were given a chemical to activate neuropeptide S receptors immediately after a learning experience. The mice were able to to remember the experience longer and better. But when the neuropeptide S receptor activation was disrupted, the mice didn't remember the learning experience nearly as well.
"It appears that the combination of increased alertness and reduced anxiety produced by neuropeptide S prepares the animals to learn much better," said the lead author of the study, Rainer Reinscheid, an associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences at UC Irvine, in a news release.
Understanding how the brain stores memories could help researchers devise better treatments for cognitive impairments and post-traumatic stress disorder, in which memories provoke an anxiety response.
The paper was published online last week in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.
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