A pill for memory?

The gene for fast learning

American scientists have begun to create a fly with a perfect memory. It is a discovery that could have a major impact on the understanding of memory processes in mammals and humans. The team from the Cold Spring Harbour laboratory has isolated a gene called CREB, which plays a crucial role in the production of proteins that support memory. This gene has been stably introduced into a lineage of Drosophila flies, where it produces coarse amounts of the protein, activating memory. But this is only the case when the environment is warmed to 37 degrees. The protein is not active under these conditions. This provides a kind of chemical switch that can be used to verify hypotheses about information storage.

Experiments were conducted with numerous fly populations. For example, using classic Pavlovian behavioral conditioning, they have been taught to flee at a certain smell associated with an electric shock. At a temperature below 37 degrees, the flies needed 10 conditioning sessions to associate the odor with electric shock. But if exposed to a temperature of 37 degrees for half an hour, only a single conditioning is needed.



The researchers believe that they have found the basic gene that controls the memory processes that are active in a similar way in mammals. Another team has already demonstrated in mice that the suppression of the CREB gene makes any storage of information impossible. Research in several laboratories is focused on the proteins that activate or inhibit memory processes. If successful, it would open up the possibility of correcting memory impairments associated with old age. The famous memory pill, so popular with science fiction authors, has come closer to us than ever before.