Dr. Menahem Segal, head of the Laboratory of Neuronal Plasticity at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, studies the neuronal basis of long term memory in the brain. Of particular interest are conditions that are associated with deterioration of memory systems, such as those occurring in Alzheimer’s disease patients and mentally retarded children.
Memories are fragile; initially forming and then retrieving them are both dependent on new protein synthesis in the brain, and both processes are vulnerable to disruption. A number of agents are known that can impair memory and these can certainly be useful — for example, in treating post-traumatic stress disorder (ptsd). Enhancing memory, however, has proven more difficult. Yet as noted in The New York Times last week , two different research groups have recently reported enhancing memory in rats [2-3]. Of note is the fact that they did so utilizing independent molecular pathways.