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Laying down memories

14 June 2007

The function of one enzyme in the brain is strongly linked to a number of major brain diseases.

The function of one enzyme in the brain – glycogen synthase kinase-3 (GSK3) – has recently been identified for the first time by researchers at the University.  Strongly linked to a number of major brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder, our new insight into this enzyme will help in the understanding of what goes wrong in these disorders, and how memories are laid down.

Professor Graham Collingridge and his team from the Department of Anatomy, with colleagues from the University of British Columbia, revealed in the journal Neuron that the activity of GSK3 regulates a form of ‘cross-talk’ between the two major forms of synaptic plasticity in the brain. Synaptic plasticity is the strength of a connection between neurons and forms the basis of learning and memory. The research showed how controlling the activity of GSK3 might prevent a memory being erased by improving the strength of connections between neurons, thus allowing better consolidation of new information.

Professor Collingridge said: “While GSK3 has previously been implicated in major neurological disorders, until now its role in normal neuronal function has been largely unknown. Our new understanding will help pharmaceutical companies develop drugs to inhibit GSK3 when things go wrong.”

Department of Anatomy

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