Decluttering your memory

20 September 2019

Decluttering your memory

20 September 2019

If you are concerned that your memory might be letting you down, then perhaps this short article may allay those fears.

Muriel Cozier

Researchers have identified a group of neurons in the hypothalamus whose inhibition during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep contributes to the brains ability to forget ‘unnecessary’ memories. Forgetting is a critical aspect in memory regulation. A process known as synaptic renormalisation, allows for the removal of those needless memories.

It seems that melanin-concentrating hormone (MCH) neurons, found exclusively in the hypothalamus, have a role to play in the regulation of sleep and wakefulness, as well as time spent in REM sleep stage.

Shuntaro Izawa and colleagues at Nagoya University, in Nagoya, Japan, have investigated the role of MCH neurons in memory regulation in sleeping mice using a combination of chemogenic and optogenic techniques.

Publishing their findings in the journal Science, the team found, much to their surprise, that inhibition of the neurons increased memory performance in the mice, while activation of the MCH neurons impaired memory. The results suggest that the REM sleep-active neural pathway plays an important role in active forgetting.  The research team conclude that the MCH pathway could be used as a target for memory modulation. 

DOI: 10.1126/science.aaw1605

Source URL: science mag publisher AAAS the Science Society

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