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"Memory Reboot" -- The Discovery Files

The Discovery Files
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University of California, Irvine, scientists have found that the ability to create lasting memories is linked to an overly aggressive enzyme blocking the release of Period1, an important gene in new memory formation. By targeting the aggressive enzyme, HDAC3, new medical treatments could help older patients suffering from memory loss.

Credit: NSF/Karson Productions

Audio Transcript:

Unleashing memories.

I'm Bob Karson with the Discovery Files, from the National Science Foundation.

"If memory serves me right:" For older people, or those with brain injuries, sometimes it doesn't. New research from the University of California, Irvine, says that may be able to be reversed. Here are some "memorable" findings from their study:

In order to form a long-term memory, (Sound effect: light switch) you have to turn on certain genes. That's easy for most young brains, tougher for older ones. Packed into each cell of our bodies is 6 feet of tightly wound DNA. As we age, it has a harder time releasing itself as needed.

(Sound effect: voice of old man DNA) "Hey, I ain't as flexible as I used to be you know!"

That's because in senior brains an overeager enzyme, called HDAC3, compacts things too hard and (Sound effect: tire squeal) applies the brakes on release of a critical gene known as Period 1. Remove HDAC3 and you restore flexibility.

(Sound effect: voice of old man DNA) "Ahh, that's better."

With the brake lifted, the cells' internal machinery can again access Period 1 to begin forming new memories.

The team says the development of new drugs that target HDAC3 could restore memory creation in older people and some with brain injuries.

Lifting the brakes to give memory-making function a break.

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