March 2, 2012

Scientists Make Breakthrough In Determining How Old Memories are Saved and New Ones Created

by Levin & Perconti

Science Daily published a fascinating new story last week on research which is adding knowledge to our understanding of memory formation. Each Chicago brain injury attorney at our firm appreciates that the loss of old memories or ability to form new memories is one damaging effect of serious traumatic brain injuries as well as degenerative brain injuries (strokes, dementia, Alzheimer’s). The complexity of the memory process has made it difficult for those treating these injuries to come up with proper treatment methods that may actually improve the quality of life of sufferers. However, with newer understandings of how the memory process actually works, it is hoped that treatment can eventually be created to reverse the damage.

This latest effort was spearheaded by researchers at the Center for Neural Circuit Genetics. Those involved say that they now believe they understand how individual brain cells can both create new memories while retaining old ones. The results will be published in the late March edition of the journal, Cell. In short, the researchers believe that the memory issues involve a connection between the cellular basis of memory formation and the birth of new brain cells. More specifically, researchers believe that a region of the brain called the “dentate gyrus” plays a crucial role in memory formation.

The researchers further believe that an imbalance between young and old brain cells—neurons—might disrupt the memory formation process. This would have visible effects for the sufferer in the form of lost old memories or inability to form new memories. Experts say this may be common among those who have suffered post traumatic stress disorder or in certain degenerative states that commonly affect the elderly, like dementia and Alzheimer’s.

The particularly study which led to these findings included examination of two types of memory. “Patter separation” are memories that distinguish between two different but similar events—like the different tastes of two ice creams that look similar. “Patter completion” involves the ability to recall memories based on clues—like remembering where you were when trying to two different ice cream flavors.

Our Illinois traumatic brain injury attorneys are thrilled at the prospects that this and similar research efforts create. Working on the legal side of things, we deal daily with residents whose lives are turned upside down by these injuries, which were caused through the negligence or recklessness of others. The situations are made particular tragic in many cases because of the lack of proper treatments to help ease some of the consequences of the injury.

The mysteries of the brain have eluded professionals for quite some time. However, there has been a surge in new information about the workings of the brain and the ways that it can be damaged. It is only a matter of time before this information spawns actual interventions that can actually improve the lives of the brain injury victims that we work with. In the case of memory formation issues, like that discussed here, the research may eventually led to a new class of drugs being created which might be able to target memory disorders.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

New Traumatic Brain Injury Study to Examine Boxing Injuries

Traumatic Brain Injury Stem Cell Trial to Begin