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Memory like a Sieve – Or Not

New study by research team at Freie Universität and NeuroCure Cluster of Excellence led by biology Professor Stephan Sigrist on conditions for improving memory formation in aging humans

News from Mar 21, 2019

According to a study at Freie Universität Berlin and the NeuroCure Cluster of Excellence at Charité ­– Universitätsmedizin Berlin, with advancing age humans are only capable of forming new memories when a cellular self-clearing program in the brain called autophagy remains functional. A team led by Prof. Dr. Stephan Sigrist at Freie Universität and the NeuroCure Cluster of Excellence found that autophagy needs to run smoothly in the neurons in the brain that store memories. This is required to keep the entire brain in a protected and functional state. The findings were published in the recent issue of the prestigious science journal Nature Communications.

The scientists found that the ability of the fruit fly Drosophila to remember something is dependent on how well autophagy functions in a specific learning and memory center in the brain. The fruit fly is an established genetic model for age-related memory disorders.

Normally, the release of protective neuropeptides of a certain type from learning centers suppresses synaptic aging in the brain. However, if autophagy became inefficient in the learning centers, fewer of these neuropeptides were released and the synapses aged throughout the brain. These neuropeptides, in turn, are actively being explored as possible anti-aging factors for humans as well, so that direct references to the human situation are considered likely.

Stephan Sigrist holds an Einstein Professorship supported by the Einstein Foundation. NeuroCure is a Cluster of Excellence based at Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, the medical school operated jointly by Freie Universität Berlin and Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. Since 2007, NeuroCure has been funded through the German government’s Excellence Initiative, and in 2018 it won funding in the follow-up competition, the German Excellence Strategy, for another seven years beginning in 2019.

Publication

Bhukel A, Beuschel CB, Maglione M, Lehmann M, Juhasz G, Madeo F, Sigrist SJ. (2019) Autophagy within the mushroom body protects from synapse aging in a non cell autonomous manner. Nature Communications, 21.3.2019; DOI: 10.1038/s41467-019-09262-2.

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