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Scientists At McGill Discover Molecule That Could Enhance Brain Capacity

11/19/2014 02:14 EST | Updated 11/19/2014 02:59 EST
Christina Reichl Photography via Getty Images

In the quest to maximize the brain's capacity, scientists at McGill University may have taken another step, discovering a molecule that temporarily halts brain processing in mice and leaves the brain more functional, with improved memory recall when it reengages.

"Our findings show that the brain has a key protein that limits the production of molecules necessary for memory formation," says RI-MUHC neuroscientist Dr. Keith Murai, the study's senior author and Associate Professor in the Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery at McGill University. "When this brake-protein is suppressed, the brain is able to store more information."

Spring-boarding from previous research that suggests it's necessary to produce new molecules for storing memories in the brain, Dr. Murai and his colleagues used a mouse model to examine how changes in brain cell connections produce new memories.

What suppresses the production of molecules required for creating new memories, they found, is a protein called FXR1P (Fragile X Related Protein 1).

Upon selectively removing FXR1P from certain parts of the brain, new molecules emerged that strengthened connections between cells, which correlates with improved memory and recall for mice.

"The role of FXR1P was a surprising result," says Dr. Murai. "Previous to our work, no one had identified a role for this regulator in the brain. Our findings have provided fundamental knowledge about how the brain processes information."

The study was published in the journal Cell Reports.

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