Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Sea snails help scientists explore a possible way to enhance memory

Date:
January 6, 2012
Source:
University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
Summary:
Efforts to help people with learning impairments are being aided by a species of sea snail. The mollusk, which is used by researchers to study the brain, has much in common with other species including humans. Neuroscientists have used this animal model to test an innovative learning strategy designed to help improve the brain's memory and the results were encouraging.

Efforts to help people with learning impairments are being aided by a species of sea snail known as Aplysia californica. The mollusk, which is used by researchers to study the brain, has much in common with other species including humans. Research involving the snail has contributed to the understanding of learning and memory.

At The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth), neuroscientists used this animal model to test an innovative learning strategy designed to help improve the brain's memory and the results were encouraging. It could ultimately benefit people who have impairments resulting from aging, stroke, traumatic brain injury or congenital cognitive impairments.

The proof-of-principle study was published on the Nature Neuroscience website on Dec. 25. The next steps in the research may involve tests in other animal models and eventually humans.

The strategy was used to identify times when the brain was primed for learning, which in turn facilitated the scheduling of learning sessions during these peak periods. The result was a significant increase in memory.

"We found that memory could be enhanced appreciably," said John H. "Jack" Byrne, Ph.D., senior author and chair of the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy at the UTHealth Medical School.

Building on earlier research that identified proteins linked to memory, the UTHealth investigators created a mathematical model that tells researchers when the timing of the activity of these proteins is aligned for the best learning experience.

Right now, the scheduling of learning sessions is based on trial and error and is somewhat arbitrary. If the model proves effective in follow-up studies, it could be used to identify those periods when learning potential is highest.

"When you give a training session, you are starting several different chemical reactions. If you give another session, you get additional effects. The idea is to get the sessions in sync," Byrne said. "We have developed a way to adjust the training sessions so they are tuned to the dynamics of the biochemical processes."

Two groups of snails received five learning sessions. One group received learning sessions at irregular intervals as predicted by a mathematical model. Another group received training sessions in regular 20-minute intervals.

Five days after the learning sessions were completed, a significant increase in memory was detected in the group that was trained with a schedule predicted by a computer. But, no increase was detected in the group with the regular 20-minute intervals.

The computer sorted through 10,000 different permutations in order to determine a schedule that would enhance memory.

To confirm their findings, researchers analyzed nerve cells in the brain of snails and found greater activity in the ones receiving the enhanced training schedule, said Byrne, the June and Virgil Waggoner Chair of Neurobiology and Anatomy at UTHealth.

"This study shows the feasibility of using computational methods to assist in the design of training schedules that enhance memory," Byrne said.

Other contributors from the UTHealth Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy include lead authors Yili Zhang, Ph.D., research fellow, and Rong-Yu Liu, Ph.D., senior research scientist, as well as George A. Heberton, medical student; Paul Smolen, Ph.D., assistant professor; Douglas A. Baxter, Ph.D., professor; and Len Cleary, Ph.D., professor.

The study, which is titled "Computational Design of Enhanced Learning Protocols," received support from the National Institutes of Health and the Keck Center National Library of Medicine Training Program in Biomedical Informatics of the Gulf Coast Consortia.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Yili Zhang, Rong-Yu Liu, George A Heberton, Paul Smolen, Douglas A Baxter, Leonard J Cleary, John H Byrne. Computational design of enhanced learning protocols. Nature Neuroscience, 2011; DOI: 10.1038/nn.2990

Cite This Page:

University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. "Sea snails help scientists explore a possible way to enhance memory." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 January 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111227093103.htm>.
University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. (2012, January 6). Sea snails help scientists explore a possible way to enhance memory. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111227093103.htm
University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. "Sea snails help scientists explore a possible way to enhance memory." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/12/111227093103.htm (accessed September 2, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Can You Train Your Brain To Eat Healthy?

Can You Train Your Brain To Eat Healthy?

Newsy (Sep. 1, 2014) New research says if you condition yourself to eat healthy foods, eventually you'll crave them instead of junk food. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Coffee Then Napping: The (New) Key To Alertness

Coffee Then Napping: The (New) Key To Alertness

Newsy (Aug. 30, 2014) Researchers say having a cup of coffee then taking a nap is more effective than a nap or coffee alone. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Young Entrepreneurs Get $100,000, If They Quit School

Young Entrepreneurs Get $100,000, If They Quit School

AFP (Aug. 29, 2014) Twenty college-age students are getting 100,000 dollars from a Silicon Valley leader and a chance to live in San Francisco in order to work on the start-up project of their dreams, but they have to quit school first. Duration: 02:20 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Baby Babbling Might Lead To Faster Language Development

Baby Babbling Might Lead To Faster Language Development

Newsy (Aug. 29, 2014) A new study suggests babies develop language skills more quickly if their parents imitate the babies' sounds and expressions and talk to them often. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins