The brain is the control center for most of the body’s functions, responsible for information processing, learning, and memory. Although scientists have identified regions where memories are stored, such as the hippocampus, neocortex, and cerebellum, the specific molecular structures involved in memory formation remain unknown.
New research from a team of biophysicists, physical chemists, and materials scientists proposes that memory might be located within the membranes of neurons. Neurons are the building blocks of the brain, transmitting information to enable bodily functions. Learning and memory occur at the synapse, where two neurons connect, and chemicals interact within the synaptic cleft.
At the synapse’s core are two membranes, one belonging to the transmitting neuron, and the other to the receiving neuron, each composed of a lipid bilayer containing biomolecules and proteins.
The process of synaptic plasticity, which involves changes in the membranes of neurons at the synapse, is crucial for learning and memory. These changes can be either short-term or long-term, with the latter being the primary mechanism for memory storage.
Researchers have proposed that the lipid bilayer within the membranes of neurons may be where memories are stored. By subjecting a simple lipid bilayer model to electrical stimulation, the team was able to trigger long-term changes in the membrane’s structure. What was interesting about this result was that the model did not contain the usual neuronal proteins.
The persistence of the long-term plasticity in the model suggests that the neuronal membrane could be responsible for memory storage. This discovery has implications for neuromorphic computing and the development of therapies for neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Understanding the molecular basis of biological memory using the lipid bilayer model will be useful for further research. It also opens up the possibility of using the membrane as a target for future therapeutic interventions. Ultimately, identifying the location and mechanism of memory storage in the brain will revolutionize our understanding of learning and memory and improve the treatment of various neurological disorders.
Source: The Conversation