Jerry C.P. Yin
Professor, Departments of Genetics and Neurology
Ph.D. University of Wisconsin- Madison
Molecular Genetics of Learning and Memory Formation
1. In all animals, the longest lasting phase of memory, long-term memory, requires acute gene expression around the time of training. This requirement for transcription and translation raises the issue of synaptic specificity: how does the neuron only strengthen the recently active synapse, when transcription and translation are activated? The solution to this cell biological dilemma will require the coordinated use of genetics, cell biology, molecular biology, imaging, biochemistry and behavior.
2. During memory consolidation in mammals, processes are activated during the (early) learning phase (“synaptic consolidation”), and over time as the memory is reorganized (“systems consolidation”). In Drosophila, there exist at least two genetically separable, anatomically distinct, memory traces that occur over the first three days after the end of training. dCREB2-responsive transcription is involved during this entire process, presumably contributing to the changes in excitability that are at least partially responsible for alterations in circuit-level firing. Characterizing its involvement in time and space after the end of training represents a unique opportunity to link molecular, cellular, and systems properties during consolidation.
3. How can memories persist for periods of time much longer than the half-lives of most proteins and protein structures? If “use it or lose it” applies to the persistence of memory, as it seemingly does to synaptic plasticity, how and when do neurons “re-play” experiences? One hypothesis for memory persistence is that it might involve other complex neuronal processes (like sleep and circadian rhythms) that occur regularly without any training-related cues.
Our basic approach involves transgenic manipulation of genes followed by behavioral, cellular and molecular analyses.
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