Genes for Memory
Doctor Josh Dubnau explains that genes are responsible for memory in that they contain the raw instructions for memory. Experience determines how these instructions are assembled.
Genes are responsible for memories in the way that a recipe is responsible for a great soufflÃ©. The genes contain the instructions, first for how to build a brain during development, and then the genes contain the instructions that that brain needs to function in an environment that allows learning and memory to happen. But, just the way a great chef takes a recipe and uses all of their prior experience to influence how light and fluffy the soufflÃ© is, brains do the same thing. The genes are really just the raw instructions that impart upon brains the ability to perform in a way that we call learning or memory.
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Doctor Josh Dubnau explains that mutant screens generate a large panel of mutant animals that average a mutation in one gene. Each animal is then tested for a particular characteristic.
Doctor Josh Dubnau describes how he and his colleagues at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory devised an experiment that dissociated the encoding and retrieval of memory in fruit flies.
Doctor Josh Dubnau describes learning as a change in an animal’s behavior in response to previous stimuli or experience.
Doctor Josh Dubnau explains that memories seem to be formed in different stages that evolve over time. These include acquisition, short-term storage, and consolidation.
Doctor Josh Dubnau explains that some genes are preferentially active in one part of the brain or body, while other genes are particular active in another location.
Doctor Josh Dubnau describes the difference between operant and classical conditioning, which are two different learning paradigms often studied in scientific laboratories.
Doctor Josh Dubnau explains that the genes active in different neurons can make them excitatory (e.g. glutamate) or inhibitory (e.g. GABA). These neurotransmitters are critical to learning.
Doctor Josh Dubnau explains that model systems are particular species of animals that substitute for humans or other animals. For genetic and historic reasons, the fruit fly is a commonly used model.
Doctor Josh Dubnau discusses some remarkably sophisticated behaviors in fruit flies that suggest that they do have cognition.
Doctor Josh Dubnau explains that memories result from rapid changes in the connections in a huge network of neurons. We do not know, however, the precise mechanism driving these changes.