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Researchers May Have Discovered How Memories Are Encoded In the Brain

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the enduring-mystery dept.

Medicine 185

Zothecula writes "While it's generally accepted that memories are stored somewhere, somehow in our brains, the exact process has never been entirely understood. Strengthened synaptic connections between neurons definitely have something to do with it, although the synaptic membranes involved are constantly degrading and being replaced – this seems to be somewhat at odds with the fact that some memories can last for a person's lifetime. Now, a team of scientists believe that they may have figured out what's going on. Their findings could have huge implications for the treatment of diseases such as Alzheimer's."

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Fuck GizMag (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39444949)

Seriously, what's up with the gizmag spam? That website is garish, tabloid-ish, pseudo-science advertising portal that exists only to sell page hits.

Are they paying slashdot or is slashdot being trolled into posting every one of their "stories".

Re:Fuck GizMag (5, Informative)

PatPending (953482) | more than 2 years ago | (#39445193)

If you want to read something intelligent about "memory storage theory", here's [brown.edu] a better article--from Brown University, November 14, 2006.

Pull-quote:

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Daily events are minted into memories in the hippocampus, one of the oldest parts of the brain. For long-term storage, scientists believe that memories move to the neocortex, or "new bark," the gray matter covering the hippocampus. This transfer process occurs during sleep, especially during deep, dreamless sleep.

Re:Fuck GizMag (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | more than 2 years ago | (#39445313)

This transfer process occurs during sleep, especially during deep, dreamless sleep.

Hmm... so the fact that I A) seldom ever dream, and B) suffer from C.R.S. Syndrome, may possibly be related?

Re:Fuck GizMag (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39445659)

Congenital rubella syndrome syndrome? Do you also enter your personal identification number number into an automated teller machine machine?

Re:Fuck GizMag (1)

mikael (484) | more than 2 years ago | (#39445931)

Jeez, I once refilled the laser printer toner with coffee, and tried to microwave cous-cous without using water. A college friend once put the kettle on without filling it (it exploded).

There is always putting down newspaper over wet varnish to stop people leaving footprints on the varnish.

My favorite is charging up a car battery and turning on the ignition before removing the cables.

Re:Fuck GizMag (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39446081)

it's called dope for a reason.

Re:Fuck GizMag (2)

h5inz (1284916) | more than 2 years ago | (#39445691)

Although I don't know that much about the biochemistry that the Gizmag is talking about, and I can't criticize that, the sentence that contains "memories are stored somewhere, somehow in our brains but the exact process has never been entirely understood." is suspicious - almost as if the author has actually no interest in what so ever in the subject. You are right, we do know approximately where the memories are stored. These neocortex parts+hippocampuses are called temporal lobes, left for abstract information, and right for spatial, contextual and events information and it has been established for quite a long time that they are specialized in long term memory.
"..in the 1930s whe Wilder Penfield observed that his concious epileptic patients would occasionally report "flashbacks" while the superior or upper lateral surfaces of their temporal cortices were electrically stimulated."- Origins of Neuroscience: A History of Explorations Into Brain Function By Stanley Finger
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temporal_lobe [wikipedia.org]

Re:Fuck GizMag (2)

stevelinton (4044) | more than 2 years ago | (#39446225)

The research in question is about the exact process on a molecular level. We may know which cells
or synapses are affected, but we don't know much if anything about the chemistry of that process. These
simulation studies suggest an intriguing possibility

Re:Fuck GizMag (4, Funny)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 2 years ago | (#39445765)

Wait, so the human body does nightly backups? That is awesome.

Re:Fuck GizMag (4, Funny)

Centurix (249778) | more than 2 years ago | (#39445913)

It uses crantab

Re:Fuck GizMag (1, Insightful)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 2 years ago | (#39446049)

There are no "backups" of your brain. There may be neural redundancy, but effectively no 1 to 1 backups. No, if anything this is equivalent to flushing RAM to disk.

Re:Fuck GizMag (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39445861)

>> For long-term storage, scientists believe that memories move to the neocortex, or "new bark," the gray matter covering the hippocampus. This transfer process occurs during sleep, especially during deep, dreamless sleep.

I'm not sure I agree because this is a MUCH different case for me. I had Congenital Rubella Syndrome and I now I cope with a "Learning Disability". My short term memory is shot and I have a extremely hard time remembering short term tasks (please don't ask me to write everything I do down so I don't forget, that's completely pointless). Growing up was very difficult because most people don't understand why I can't recall something from 2 minutes ago, which makes memorizing nearly impossible by the way.

My long term memory is astounding. I surprise many people with stories, events, and information stored in long term memory with amazing detail but getting it there is sometimes a challenge. As I've gotten older the act of writing something down with a unique graphical style is enough to get it into my long term memory. Luckily I studied programming at a very young age and now I consider myself a very good programmer (I'm not Linus Torvalds).

They are etched (4, Funny)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 2 years ago | (#39444963)

by tiny Gnomes, with silver hammers.

This is known, even by the most obtuse of my Aunts.

Re:They are etched (2)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 2 years ago | (#39445885)

by tiny Gnomes, with silver hammers.

This is known, even by the most obtuse of my Aunts.

It is known, Khaleesi.

religious implications? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39444983)

If memories are stored in meat...how come we still have them in the afterlife?

Re:religious implications? (5, Interesting)

Quartus486 (935104) | more than 2 years ago | (#39445055)

Can't answer for other religions, but this is what the Bible says:

Ecclesiastes 9 (New International Version)

  5 For the living know that they will die,
      but the dead know nothing;
they have no further reward,
      and even their name is forgotten.

10 Whatever your hand finds to do,
do it with all your might, for in the realm
of the dead, where you are going,
there is neither working nor planning
nor knowledge nor wisdom.

Re:religious implications? (4, Funny)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | more than 2 years ago | (#39445129)

Well, isn't that a cheery little missive? Tell me again what the appeal of this religion is? Is it the central zombie figure? The ritual cannibalism? The dramatic "death from above" episodes?

Re:religious implications? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39445241)

All of the above, and don't forget my omnipotence.
Cheers,
  God.

Re:religious implications? (1)

SilverTab (82769) | more than 2 years ago | (#39445263)

I think it's the happy ending.

Re:religious implications? (1)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | more than 2 years ago | (#39445285)

Which apparently, you won't remember.

Re:religious implications? (4, Funny)

kanweg (771128) | more than 2 years ago | (#39445319)

Yes, here you can read up on that.
http://www.jhuger.com/kisshank.php [jhuger.com]

Bert

Re:religious implications? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39445597)

This is awesome. Thanks

Re:religious implications? (1)

Cazekiel (1417893) | more than 2 years ago | (#39445321)

It's the excuse to use child labor for their spaghetti dinners. Good Christ, they worked us like dogs.

Re:religious implications? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39445439)

They tied you to a sled and made you pull it across the tundra? Or were you forced to chase rabbits? Or both?

Re:religious implications? (2)

TheCarp (96830) | more than 2 years ago | (#39445469)

I thought the upside was in not having to admit that your parents abused you by giving you an obviously fabricated and useless model for how the world works. At least, thats what I assumed other people must see in it.

Re:religious implications? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39445475)

Re:religious implications? (4, Interesting)

asher09 (1684758) | more than 2 years ago | (#39445745)

Throughout the OT & NT, "the realm (place/assembly) of the dead" always refers to the place where the condemned will end up and not the saints (those who are justified by faith in God). The place that the saints end up with is referred to as heaven / the land of the living / the dwelling place of the Most High / Paradise / New Jerusalem, etc, but not "the realm of the dead".
Moreover, Ecclesiastes was written by Solomon when he was "backsliding" (ie falling away from the faith). So he was being cynical about life and not hopeful about future with God. It's easy to take verses out of context and come up with non-Christian ideas from the book of Ecclesiastes for this reason.

Re:religious implications? (1)

Dog-Cow (21281) | more than 2 years ago | (#39446677)

"For this reason"? Really? I would have thought that it was because it was written hundreds of years prior to the first Christian, by a king who followed a different religion.

The entire "OT", as the thieves of the TaNaCH call it, is filled with non-Christian ideas.

Re:religious implications? (1)

Sperbels (1008585) | more than 2 years ago | (#39445201)

This seems to contradict the happy little picture of heaven that priests paint.

Re:religious implications? (0)

Quartus486 (935104) | more than 2 years ago | (#39445353)

What the Bible says and what the priests say are seldom the same... Psalm 37 10 For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be. 11 But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace. Matthew 5 5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. John 5 28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, 29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.

Re:religious implications? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39445259)

Ecclesiastes is only one reference and you taking it out of slightly context.
The person who wrote Ecclesiastes was talking strictly about what could be known without faith
and seen by the human eye. Christian's believe God has directly revealed certain truths to them through Christ.
Also, they believe that their bodies will be Resurrection at some point, which makes the storage of memory a in the physical body
vs the soul a somewhat mute point.

Re:religious implications? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39446607)

Whatever your hand finds to do,
do it with all your might

Uh huh.. at last biblical vindication for whacking off!

Re:religious implications? (1)

agm (467017) | more than 2 years ago | (#39445067)

What afterlife?

Re:religious implications? (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#39445205)

St. Peter has all your life written down in his book.

Re:religious implications? (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | more than 2 years ago | (#39445347)

If memories are stored in meat...how come we still have them in the afterlife?

I doubt anyone but a dead man would know whether or not memories carry into the afterlife... and he ain't talking.

Re:religious implications? (1)

gregor-e (136142) | more than 2 years ago | (#39445847)

I've been dead. It's just like being asleep, only without the dreams.

Re:religious implications? (2)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 2 years ago | (#39446123)

Well, assuming you mean the christian afterlife, you die... and are very really dead, just as atheists believe. The afterlife awaits the rapture, when God will raise the dead to sit with him in heaven. So technically, you'd take your resurrected body and its memories with you into heaven.

They solved it (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39444997)

but then they slept on it and forgot

Capacity (2)

darkob (634931) | more than 2 years ago | (#39445015)

If the tiniest amount of storage is on molecular level, the total capacity of "memory" of a person is HUGE.

Re:Capacity (2)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#39445449)

I think the estimates are somewhere are in the petabytes in magnitude (best exact figure I can find is 2.5 petabytes, in Scientific America a few years ago). So yes, quite a lot. But as the summary says, the process isn't fully understood.

Or may have not (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39445029)

No summary? meh

bad title/summary (1)

ThorGod (456163) | more than 2 years ago | (#39445035)

I dig how the title for this article, at least, sounds as though researchers stumbled across a working hypothesis...as though scientific hypotheses are hit upon like a rock in the road.

A memory doesn't have to stay at the same place (2)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#39445083)

A memory can theoretically remain longer than synaptic connections. If a memory is important enough you memorize it again when you remember it, and store it in a different location. Doing this from time to time can help bypass the duration limit.

Re:A memory doesn't have to stay at the same place (1)

Anna Merikin (529843) | more than 2 years ago | (#39445643)

Short term memory seems to be electrical and long-term chemical. This article seems to support this hypothesis, showing the connection between statically-charged connections between molecules within the synaptic structure.

Whether the location of the electrically-bonded connections changes or not, the chemistry will reconstruct the electrical charges of the original memory. more or less.

Re:A memory doesn't have to stay at the same place (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39445703)

You are quite right that research shows a memory changes slightly each time it is accessed. It must be encoded as a JPEG.

Car Analogy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39445093)

I can't understand this unless it's presented as a car analogy.

first application will be .... (5, Insightful)

RichMan (8097) | more than 2 years ago | (#39445109)

Pick one
a) therapy, erasing bad memories
b) therapy, implanting good memories
c) health, perserving function
d) personal, perserving cherished memories
e) learning
f) porn

Place your bets!!

Re:first application will be .... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39445191)

Porn. That's ALWAYS the leader in any type of media. Also, damn you for beat me to the: "This is all well and good, but how long until I can have memories of banging supermodels" punch.

Re:first application will be .... (2)

EdZ (755139) | more than 2 years ago | (#39445195)

"Your original memory will never by fully restored, there might be residual simulation; we don't have the technology yet to handle simex erasures. I'm sorry."

Re:first application will be .... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39445219)

a,b,d,e, and f at once.
A complicated therapy that involves temporarily forgetting all your pornographic memories then reliving all the 'choice' ones in an immersive lucid-dream like state.

Re:first application will be .... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39445283)

The first application will be C followed by A.
Once the methods get out, though, this will happen:
- F
- A to fix bad F or 'virus' from F
- C due to too many applications of F and A
- D due to memory loss from too many applications of F, A, and C
- B to fill in the blanks

- E if the brain gets too fried and you forget basic things you knew

Re:first application will be .... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39445429)

You missed g) Propaganda, implanting memories favorable to a particular group.

Because if something like this were to exist, I could see opportunities to sneak in state-mandated brainwashing. Not referring to any country in particular, other than whoever decides to apply it first.

There's also h) further surveillance of peoples' lives, allowing for them to get sued when they THINK about a copyrighted piece of content.

Re:first application will be .... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39445513)

Why it's A of course. What better way to have all of those nasty "terrorists" stop thinking those bad ideas than to have them forget they were there in the first place.

Re:first application will be .... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39445605)

Wrong! The first application will be reading, not writing!!

If we are able to figure a way to download, then decode, then we can use it to preserve memories.

Think Logan's run in the near final scene where they download Logan's knowledge on Sanctuary.

Re:first application will be .... (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 2 years ago | (#39445787)

e) learning

I remember a Calvin & Hobbes strip where a robot doctor implants grey matter into Calvin's brain. "Well, there's grades 1-12. Now go have 12 years of fun."

The more complex our world becomes, the less opportunities kids have to be kids.

Re:first application will be .... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39445957)

g) PROFIT!

g) protecting your previous employers IP. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39446111)

Exit-interview memory-wipe. Minor collateral damage is just the price of getting the job in the first place, and hey, everyone is doing it.

or maybe,
g) protecting the RIAA's IP. You're only allowed to remember the music for as long as you pay the licensing fees.

Not sure which scares me more.

Forgot 1.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39446191)

g) Protecting the value of a university education. You're only allowed to remember it for as long as you pay the ongoing recertification co$t.

Re:first application will be .... (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 2 years ago | (#39446209)

Minor pet peeve: important biological research results don't need to be pragmatic to be very important. Science asks "Why", it doesn't just ask "Knowing this, what can I get out of it?" The structure of DNA was not immediately used to cure diseases. Knowing that E=MC squared was important for reasons beyond "Great! Now we can REALLY blow up our enemies!"

This is a problem these days with basic biological research and probably all basic research: people are taking a short-term, "what can we do with it" approach. There's funding for "translational research," to make cures and treatments right now, and that's good, but funding for long-term research that has no immediate applications is suffering. Everything has to be linked to cancer or alzheimers. No one can get away with studying something just because it's how life happens and is important and may, 30 years from now, lead to something useful or not.

Knowing how our memories are stored may not be immediately or ever be useful. It doesn't have to be.

Pure B.S. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39445125)

I can not say it any better than a commenter on the Gizmag article already has, and I quote:

1. This article says nothing about how CaMKII/tubulin interactions help form memories and the whole Alzheimer’s therapy thing is 99% speculation and total bs.

2. If this was big news, it wouldn’t be published in PloS, it would be in a more prestigious journal like nature or something

-- comment Ben Murphy-Baum

Re:Pure B.S. (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 2 years ago | (#39446349)

I can not say it any better than a commenter on the Gizmag article already has, and I quote:

1. This article says nothing about how CaMKII/tubulin interactions help form memories and the whole Alzheimer’s therapy thing is 99% speculation and total bs.

I have to agree with this.

>quote>

2. If this was big news, it wouldn’t be published in PloS, it would be in a more prestigious journal like nature or something

I have to disagree with this.

My mind is blown (5, Interesting)

DaleGlass (1068434) | more than 2 years ago | (#39445207)

I took a look at the paper in case I managed to understand something, and came across this:

Information Storage Capacity

If each extended kinase can either phosphorylate at the S-T site on a tubulin substrate, or not, the process effectively conveys one bit of information (e.g. no phosphorylation = 0, phosphorylation = 1). Each set of six extended kinases on either side of a CaMKII holoenzyme can thus act collectively as 6 bits of information. Ordered arrays of bits are termed âbytesâ(TM).
[...]

Logic Gates

Clusters of phosphorylated tubulin, and/or MAP attachment may serve as logic gates for propagating information. Figures 9 and 10 demonstrate two types of Boolean logic gates, an AND gate and an exclusive OR gate (XOR) in which MAPs convey inputs, with output along tubulin pathways. Figures 11 and 12 show AND and XOR gates in which MAPs convey output of inputs and processes in tubulins within the MT. The combination of XOR and AND logic gates forms a universal set for computation in which all other logic gates (NOT, OR etc.) can be conceived. Signals propagating through MT-MAP logic circuits may extend throughout cytoskeletal networks, regulating synaptic function, cognition and behavior.

Whoa. If that research is correct then that's really amazing.

Re:My mind is blown (1)

tgv (254536) | more than 2 years ago | (#39445499)

I, for one, welcome our new logic overlords.

O wait, that's us!

Brains are not digital (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39445539)

So really, the ability to encode bitwise functions and boolean logic in chemicals in the brain has absolutely nothing to do with how the brain *actually* functions.

Re:Brains are not digital (1)

DaleGlass (1068434) | more than 2 years ago | (#39445775)

Great, I await your refutation of this paper. I'm sure it'll be interesting to read.

Re:My mind is blown (1)

Twinbee (767046) | more than 2 years ago | (#39445671)

If they read the paper (or hired an expert to read it, and summarize it to them), they would have had a much better story ("Humans are computers!"), and would have probably driven much more traffic to their site. It's weird that didn't happen...

Re:My mind is blown (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39445875)

I find it hard to believe that organisms use binary logic. Seems like they would be more efficient by using higher-valued logic.

Re:My mind is blown (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#39445953)

This research implies that long term storage is digital and has the ability to be manipulated by logic constructs familiar to at least some of us who work with computers and similar machines. That's an interesting statement. Their hypothesis centers on a protein that works on tubulin (a common structural protein that makes, wait for it, tubes) and that this represents the 'logic framework' for memory storage.

Aside from the 'it's full of tubes' attempt at humor, it's a striking hypothesis and probably wrong but certainly one that would be amenable to experimental manipulation by modifying the kinase or finding that in organisms with 'memory' the kinase is a very preserved structure.

Mem'rieeees (1)

Cazekiel (1417893) | more than 2 years ago | (#39445273)

My parents and their friends were sitting around at our wedding table, all arguing on when the mass-suicide of Jim Jones' cult happened. "It was 1982, I think." "No, it was '81." I said, "No, it was '78." Dad looked it up and found that yup, I was right. "But you were only two years old! Did you look it up recently??"

"No, it's just the way it felt in time."

I can recall things from waaaay back into infancy (you can't believe the blackmail material I have on Mom, and what she doesn't WANT me to remember, lol), but go on, ask me what I had for breakfast. All you'll get is a blank, stupid stare. Hell, I forgot to hit 'post' when I first tried posting this comment here, only hitting 'preview' then wandering off to other places. Always doing that.

Where's PharmaKom when you need 'em? (1)

Jawnn (445279) | more than 2 years ago | (#39445287)

FTA...

“This could open up amazing new possibilities of dealing with memory loss problems, interfacing our brains with hybrid devices to augment and 'refresh' our memories,” said Tuszynski. “More importantly, it could lead to new therapeutic and preventive ways of dealing with neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's and dementia, whose incidence is growing very rapidly these days.”

Not to mention "the black shakes".
But I don't think we'll see anything useful come from this research, because everybody knows that socialist medicine (like they have in Canada) is second rate. To really come up with a profitable, er... effective cure, you need capitalism involved.

Re:Where's PharmaKom when you need 'em? (1)

doston (2372830) | more than 2 years ago | (#39445811)

FTA...

“This could open up amazing new possibilities of dealing with memory loss problems, interfacing our brains with hybrid devices to augment and 'refresh' our memories,” said Tuszynski. “More importantly, it could lead to new therapeutic and preventive ways of dealing with neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's and dementia, whose incidence is growing very rapidly these days.”

Not to mention "the black shakes". But I don't think we'll see anything useful come from this research, because everybody knows that socialist medicine (like they have in Canada) is second rate. To really come up with a profitable, er... effective cure, you need capitalism involved.

What captialism? Capitalism doesn't exist anywhere in the world. What you are talking about is state capitalism....aka socialist capitalism; That's what we have here. Leaders of industry know that capitalism doesn't work. That's why they like a nice, rich government they control to bail them out. Business couldn't stand up to the ravages of the market for one minute without a hand-out from good old socialism. That's why business is perfectly happy when individuals pay taxes, so they can do their socialist funded R&D and get bailed out by socialism and enjoy generous socialist hand-outs. Look it up...that's NOT capitalism, so stop calling it that, Orwell.

Get your ass to Mars. (3, Funny)

Rodness (168429) | more than 2 years ago | (#39445293)

How much will it cost me to remember being an invincible secret agent on Mars??

Re:Get your ass to Mars. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39445577)

I'm not sure of the cost, but the procedure will take....

Two Weeks.

Re:Get your ass to Mars. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39445925)

And remember, we'll charge you wholesale!

Re:Get your ass to Mars. (1)

cowboy76Spain (815442) | more than 2 years ago | (#39445991)

How much will it cost me to remember being an invincible secret agent on Mars??

<pedantic>That's nothing, I want to remember how I saved Mankind from an alien invasion while I was a kid. Just by being kind to them.</pedantic>

Is this point up for debate? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39445377)

"While it's generally accepted that memories are stored somewhere"

Does anyone believe otherwise?

there are options. (1)

mevets (322601) | more than 2 years ago | (#39446195)

If I streamed data by modulating a laser off a distant target (the moon), then streamed the reflected signal, I could 'store' around 1 light second of data, without it ever having a 'where' (within the reference frame of a solar system, for the pedants).
My retrieval latency would be 1/utilization; so if I only used 0.1% of the available capacity, it would be 1ms; and my redundancy would be capacity/utilization.

Cloud Storage (4, Funny)

InfiniteZero (587028) | more than 2 years ago | (#39445423)

Well, the religious types will tell you there is also a backup copy stored somewhere, somehow in the cloud, literally.

Re:Cloud Storage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39446267)

Unfortunately they use the same IT vendor as Prorail. The only time you ever need the backup, it will not work.

It's clearly flash memory (1)

Walt Dismal (534799) | more than 2 years ago | (#39445619)

It's been obvious to me that we store memories in tiny little flash drives embedded in our brain. Sometimes they go bad, and then we get getstuckget stuck and files don'tloadloadloadfilesystemcorrupt

Drugs: don't do 'em, kids.

Useful? (1)

rts008 (812749) | more than 2 years ago | (#39445641)

Well, that's good news, but what I want to know is...can they find my confounded car keys!

Re:Useful? or what about my car keys? (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 2 years ago | (#39446357)

Well, that's good news, but what I want to know is...can they find my confounded car keys!

They're in your jacket pocket where you put them while you were carrying that cup.

Important work, but clearly being oversold (5, Informative)

neurophil12 (1054552) | more than 2 years ago | (#39445721)

"Now, a team of scientists believe that they may have figured out what's going on. Their findings could have huge implications for the treatment of diseases such as Alzheimer's."

This statement is utterly absurd, but the authors of the PLoS article appear to have done some important work here. I'm not a physicist and can't evaluate the quality of the modeling and measurement, but assuming that is all legitimate (and I have no reason to doubt it), then their findings could prove useful to furthering theories on memory formation and stability. Basically they found a series of potential mechanisms by which activated CAMKII (via synaptic activity) can interface with microtubules to update their phosphorylation states. In what I would consider heavy speculation, they suggest that these phosphorylation states, along with the structural and electrostatic properties of microtubules, can produce and modulate information processing along/within the microtubules.

Keeping Occam's Razor in mind, to me it would be simpler if these interactions simply increase or decrease microtubule stability, and possibly affect shape to promote dendritic bifurcation versus elongation or retraction. Not to say some kind of information processing can't be happening in the microtubules, but we already have some pretty good theories regarding information processing in dendrites based on membrane voltage propagation. With changes in microtubule phosphorylation state there is also the possibility of making cross-linking tighter or looser, making it possible to fit in more or fewer microtubules and change a dendrite's diameter. All of these changes are important for signal processing, but by impacting the propagation properties of the membrane rather than through the microtubules directly. I base these comments on other research that have found changes in dendrite morphology and physiology concurrent with synaptic plasticity. One must always keep in mind though that anything as complex as memory is going to rely on multiple mechanisms. Any claim that "the mechanism for X" has been found is always hyperbole.

I would say that some of that speculation, as well as the fact that this is all highly theoretical (no experimental work) are the major reasons this wasn't published in a journal like Nature or Science. Still PLoS Computational Biology often has some very good and important articles.

Re:Important work, but clearly being oversold (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#39445985)

Tubulin is a major structural protein, so manipulating it may allow you to create 'memory structures' whatever they may be. However, my reading of TFA is that it's the logic information held by the kinase by way of the degrees of phosphorylation on the molecule that actually encodes the data.

As you say, very speculative but interesting. I'm sure there are experimental systems with mutations in both the kinase and tubulins - that should offer some experimental avenues to look into this.

Re:Important work, but clearly being oversold (1)

neurophil12 (1054552) | more than 2 years ago | (#39446243)

Tubulin is a major structural protein, so manipulating it may allow you to create 'memory structures' whatever they may be. However, my reading of TFA is that it's the logic information held by the kinase by way of the degrees of phosphorylation on the molecule that actually encodes the data.

As you say, very speculative but interesting. I'm sure there are experimental systems with mutations in both the kinase and tubulins - that should offer some experimental avenues to look into this.

Good point on the idea of mutations, though under either theory (direct vs indirect impact on memory storage and computation) there would be a deficit in memory at some point. Both theories would need to be firmed up to actually make a prediction as to how a given mutation would impact memory in a given task. And while I am highly skeptical that those degrees of phosphorylation encode memory in the way they suggest, I wouldn't be surprised if the specific phosphorylation states do have functional implications at some level. There's plenty more to learn down there, I'm just not sure it's absolutely necessary to know all of it to understand learning and memory. Granted, it may be important to understand specific diseases.

Re:Important work, but clearly being oversold (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 2 years ago | (#39446379)

I think this does promise to be important work, but it seems unlikely to be that useful in Alzheimers. More promising is the work on resveratrol, for example.

Reminds me of one clinical test we did on a drug to remove plaque which worked too well - the brain cells ended up leaking for some subjects, because they had giant surface holes in them! Not a big deal for minor plaque impacts, but a big problem for an AD subject with large scale plaque in their brain cells.

Re:Important work, but clearly being oversold (1)

dzfoo (772245) | more than 2 years ago | (#39446519)

Somebody, quick, mod this post Informational!!

      dZ.

P.S. Thanks for the great overview and insightful perspective.

forget alzheimers treatments (2)

um... Lucas (13147) | more than 2 years ago | (#39445767)

this brings us many steps closer to Total Recall!

Two weeks... two weeks... two weeks.... two weeks...

Ogg Vorbis?? (1)

malraid (592373) | more than 2 years ago | (#39445793)

I suspected it all along ....

The Hidden Evil : Exposing the hidden tech (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39445795)

Other tech "THEY" have:
http://www.thehiddenevil.com/ [thehiddenevil.com]

Welcome to the world of a Ti.

eeeek (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39445855)

i can only hope they come up with a way to copy one's memories within my lifetime. i'd imagine religious nuts would be up in arms about people's minds being transferred/copied into a computer or eventually an engineered body though.

Memory encoding (1)

gallondr00nk (868673) | more than 2 years ago | (#39445865)

I just hope it isn't encoded in WMV or something, or we'll all end up paying royalties for the images in our heads.

Re:Memory encoding (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39446511)

I didn't know things could be encoded in WMV.. I always thought it was H.264, VC-1, MP4, et al.

Bad Title (5, Informative)

SoftwareArtist (1472499) | more than 2 years ago | (#39445881)

What they've actually proposed is a mechanism for how memories are stored, not how they're encoded. The question is, how can memories be so stable if they're made up of synaptic connections that are constantly changing? These authors have proposed an answer, a molecular description of a much more stable link between two neurons that could form and then remain fixed for years. If they're right, it's a very important advance. But encoding is a completely different question: how does a particular memory get represented as a set of those connections. This work says nothing about that.

To give an analogy, they've described the magnetic domains on a hard disk. They haven't described how JPEG transforms images into patterns of bits.

Major flaw? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39445903)

As appealing as it it, there is possibly one major flaw in the entire idea. I can recall memories almost instantaneously. I don't believe reading microtubles can be done instantaneously since it involves large scale protein unbinding/binding events and phosphorylation/dephosphorylation. I think electrical firing patterns is a more realistic way that memories are preserved.

Memory is binary coded? (2)

TheSync (5291) | more than 2 years ago | (#39446205)

From the actual scientific article [ploscompbiol.org] :
In long-term potentiation (LTP), a cellular and molecular model for memory, post-synaptic calcium ion (Ca2+) flux activates the hexagonal Ca2+-calmodulin dependent kinase II (CaMKII), a dodacameric holoenzyme containing 2 hexagonal sets of 6 kinase domains. Each kinase domain can either phosphorylate substrate proteins, or not (i.e. encoding one bit). Thus each set of extended CaMKII kinases can potentially encode synaptic Ca2+ information via phosphorylation as ordered arrays of binary "bits"...
...this suggests sets of six CaMKII kinase domains phosphorylate hexagonal MT lattice neighborhoods collectively, e.g. conveying synaptic information as ordered arrays of six "bits", and thus "bytes", with 64 to 5,281 possible bit states per CaMKII-MT byte...

26 exabytes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39446237)

So if I've understood the article correctly and done my math right, this places a lower limit of 26 exabytes on the information storage capacity of the brain?

Stuart Hameroff (1)

wytcld (179112) | more than 2 years ago | (#39446659)

Stuart Hameroff is an organizer of this conference [arizona.edu] , which I'm sure this research was timed for release just before. Stuart [quantumconsciousness.org] has long been an advocate of a theory he developed with Roger Penrose [st-andrews.ac.uk] in which the microtubules are the brain's interface with the quantum [quantumconsciousness.org] .

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