That worm has a good memory!

Whole genome expression data reveals new genes involved in long-term memory formation in worms. Image credit: Murphy lab, Princeton University

Yesterday I published a news on the way ICT is helping in understanding the shaping of brain structures as fall out of genome variations. Now I have stumbled onto a study carried out by Princeton University that has been looking to identify genes related to long term memory.

It is a bit humbling discovering that scientists are looking for these genes into a worm, Caenorhabditis elegans.    

They say that the way memory works for us is basically the same, at molecular level, to the way it works in a worm (I don't like this..., I have always been proud for my memory and now I discover it looks like the one of a worm, an elegant one though...). Since it works in the same way they use the worm: it has just 302 neurones, much easier to deal with them than with the hundred of billions cramming our skull.

The study pointed out the role of over 750 genes that are related to the formation of long term memories. Now, the worm does not remember sonnets, as far as we know, but can remember that a certain smell is associated to the availability of food. By training the worm and then looking at the strengthening of links between neurones and what leads to this strengthening the scientists have been able to discover the role of these genes. Now, having said that there area over 750 of them makes the all picture quite complex, and fuzzy. It would have been great to identify one gene that makes it all, unfortunately that is not the case. We have to live with this complexity and again it overwhelms our capability of understanding. We need ICT for that!

Author - Roberto Saracco

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