The synapse theory of memory

December 1, 2009

Two recently publishes in Nature pushes the synapse theory of memory further with observational evidences with microscope.

Xu T. et. al., Rapid formation and selective stabilization of synapses for enduring motor memories.

Yang G. et. al., Stably maintained dendritic spines are associated with lifelong memories.

They trained the mice for simple task of motor skills and observed the change of synapses in some neurons in motor cortex with microscope. Since the neurons were marked with flurorescence, the numbers and morphology of the spines on dendrites could be lively observed under microscope. According to the synapse theory, the memory is stored and consolidated in the spines of synapses, and this two papers really showed the dynamic change of spines formation and elimination during the learning.  The newly formed spines could be stabilized for a long time without being eliminated, and the total number of  spines did decrease with life getting old. This data found the proof of our memory chip in spines of synapses, the next step may be to understand the coding and decoding system like 0/1 used by computer.

#A dendritic spine (or spine) is a small membranous protrusion from a neuron’s dendrite that typically receives input from a single synapse of an axon. Dendritic spines serve as a storage site for synaptic strength and help transmit electrical signals to the neuron’s cell body. Most spines have a bulbous head (the spine head), and a thin neck that connects the head of the spine to the shaft of the dendrite. The dendrites of a single neuron can contain from thousands up to a few hundred thousand spines. In addition to spines providing an anatomical substrate for memory storage and synaptic transmission, they may also serve to increase the number of possible contacts between neurons. (from wikipedia)

#Chemical synapses are specialized junctions through which neurons signal to each other and to non-neuronal cells such as those in muscles or glands. Chemical synapses allow neurons to form circuits within the central nervous system. They are crucial to the biological computations that underlie perception and thought. They allow the nervous system to connect to and control other systems of the body.(from wikipedia)

#memory is an organism’s ability to store, retain, and recall information. Traditional studies of memory began in the fields of philosophy, including techniques of artificially enhancing the memory. The late nineteenth and early twentieth century put memory within the paradigms of cognitive psychology. In recent decades, it has become one of the principal pillars of a branch of science called cognitive neuroscience, an interdisciplinary link between cognitive psychology and neuroscience. (from wikipedia)



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