Are you one of those people who seem to remember everything from your past, or do you have a few select memories from childhood? Do you remember what you need at the grocery store without having to write it down, or do you need a list before you leave the house and still manage to forget a thing or two?
Scientists have just discovered that there is a switch inside of your brain that can turn on (or off) your long-term memory. A team of neurobiologists at Heidelberg University looked closely at fruit flies to research how the brain learns and remembers.
It all sounds so very Sci-Fi, does it not?
The researchers studied the calcium levels in the learning centers of the brain to look for changes which may occur during periods of learning. In doing so, they discovered that calcium in the cell nucleus acts as a switch that is responsible for the formation of long-term memory by controlling the production of “memory proteins.”
Why does research done on a fruit fly matter to humans, you ask? Well, the researchers believe that both species use cellular mechanisms to form long term memories.
Researchers also found that when the calcium switch is blocked, the flies are unable to form long-term memories. This means that the findings from the study may be helpful in learning about memory loss in many areas, including: trauma, stroke, and Alzheimer’s or age-related memory loss. Conversely, it also may help us to know more about people like actress Mary Lou Henner, who has a very rare condition that allows her to (literally) recall every single thing she has ever done, called H-SAM (highly superior auto-biographical memory).
So very Sci-Fi, but so very real.