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Scientists Identify Genes Activated During Learning And Memory

samzenpus posted more than 7 years ago | from the programmed-to-learn dept.

Biotech 56

Researchers have theorized that certain genes must be activated to alter neuron activity inside the brain for learning and memory to take place. Finding and cataloging all the genes involved in learning is a formidable job. Scientists have now developed a computational approach to provide a rapid way to identify the likely members of this sought-after set of genes.

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That's good, I guess. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18794195)

I hope to see results from this development in the coming years.

Well.... (5, Funny)

kitsunewarlock (971818) | more than 7 years ago | (#18794211)

I for one am not surprised one bit it took them this many years considering the percentage of the human population who would be able to activate these genes regularly enough for them to be noticeable.

Re:Well.... (1, Offtopic)

nihaopaul (782885) | more than 7 years ago | (#18794413)

i wish i had mod points to mod the parent up, but sadly enough those who take offense after understanding what you meant will now mod me down

Recursion (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18794223)

This just in... genes used for human memory are used to discover themselves.

Title is misleading (4, Informative)

HateBreeder (656491) | more than 7 years ago | (#18794235)

They didn't identify the genes... they developed a method that might help in identifying these genes.

This is nothig new (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18794435)

Not to rain on anyone's parade here but this is pretty routine stuff. Basically, transcription factors bind to a gene's promoter region (the 'control' points) and control the production of protein from the gene. If you know that a certain transcription factor is involved in regulating some process (like learning) and you know some genes that the transcription factor regulates, you can look for sequence similarities (similar characters) in the promoter regions of those genes and then look for similar sequence in other genes to find other genes that the transcription factor _might_ control. Simplest algorithms that do this just use regular expressions while more sophisticated ones use a probabilistic model. But the results from these algorithms are not perfect (or close) because transcription factors really bind to specific 3D shapes and sequences of genetic characters are just a simple proxy for the real 3D shape (which we can't easily calculate and which depend on many other factors).

Anyway, according to the article, the work was done by an undergraduate student and it probably was good research but nothing news worthy. These kinds of press releases don't really do anyone (not the author, the scientific community nor the reader) any justice.

Oh... Matrix! (0, Offtopic)

catxk (1086945) | more than 7 years ago | (#18794245)

So I can like artificially stimulate my brain to like learn Kung-Fu in an instant? Or why not this silly exam on third world ideologies...

Re:Oh... Matrix! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18812105)

this silly exam on third world ideologies...
You shall not mock in public your obligatory propaganda imprinting, or else prepare to stand revocation of thee first-world permit... err, I mean credit card.

That's all fine and dandy... (4, Interesting)

cp.tar (871488) | more than 7 years ago | (#18794253)

... but I do hope no-one's looking forward to some sort of treatment which would drastically improve our memory, except maybe as a way to diminish symptoms of Alzheimer's or similar diseases.

Much as I've always wanted a btter memory, studies conducted on the few people with truly eidetic memory showed that while they indeed had nearly perfect recollection, they also lacked the ability to discriminate between important and unimportant, though I still have my doubts as to what is the cause of which.

Re:That's all fine and dandy... (4, Insightful)

rde (17364) | more than 7 years ago | (#18794479)

studies conducted on the few people with truly eidetic memory showed that while they indeed had nearly perfect recollection, they also lacked the ability to discriminate between important and unimportant

Irrespective of which causes which, it's unlikely that we're going to get an all-or-nothing scenario; it should be possible to improve memory and/or learning without going the whole hog. And TBH, I think the effect on Alzheimer's is likely to be limited; while IANAN, I imagine that it's not defective memory-activating genes that cause it as much as it is plaques 'n' stuff in the brain.
Besides, have you looked at the internet lately? It seems that it's not eidetic memory that causes one to lose one's ability to distinguish between the important and the irrelevent; it's a modem.

Re:That's all fine and dandy... (1)

cp.tar (871488) | more than 7 years ago | (#18795193)

it should be possible to improve memory and/or learning without going the whole hog.

Actually, I really think we needn't resort to biology, neurology and biochemistry to do that. Schools, for one, could teach many more things, both facts and skills, if certain things were re-organized. With teachers throughout the world being as poorly appreciated as they are, that is just not going to happen, though.

Our capacity to learn and to memorize is near-infinite; it's not the capacity that's the problem, but the way we use it.

And TBH, I think the effect on Alzheimer's is likely to be limited; while IANAN, I imagine that it's not defective memory-activating genes that cause it as much as it is plaques 'n' stuff in the brain.

As I said, it may be of use in alleviating the symptoms; I did not for one second consider it a possible cure.

Besides, have you looked at the internet lately? It seems that it's not eidetic memory that causes one to lose one's ability to distinguish between the important and the irrelevent; it's a modem.

Besides, have you looked at the world lately? It's not a modem that causes one to lose one's ability to think clearly in any fashion, it's just the way people are. (Incidentally, some of my teachers from the Dept. of English Language and Literature were quite amused with the word sheeple. Apparently, they hadn't heard it before.)

Re:That's all fine and dandy... (5, Insightful)

kevinadi (191992) | more than 7 years ago | (#18794571)

I wouldn't consider the lack of ability to have photographic memory is necessarily bad though. I have a really bad memory, forget people's names within 5 minutes of meeting them, can't seem to remember street names and address, etc.

This results in me getting really bad grades in memory-minded Asian school, since we're practically must memorize every single little thing in exams. However, this lack of ability also allows me to be very selective on what to memorize (e.g. I discovered rather quickly what is important and what is not) and allows me to develop other skills to compensate since I can't remember shit.

I have to say that my lack of strong memory actually helped me a lot in later life. I learned at an early age, much unlike my peers, that if I understand something I don't need to memorize it. When everyone in my class tried very hard to memorize an A4 paper full of formulas, I can get away with memorizing three of them (in parts no less; I have problem memorizing a full formula so I have to separate them into logical parts) and derive the rest during exam. Now as far as I know I'm the only person in my high school class doing a PhD in Engineering. And I still can't remember shit.

Now what was that article about again?

Re:That's all fine and dandy... (1)

cp.tar (871488) | more than 7 years ago | (#18795141)

Thank you for illustrating my point so clearly.

Croatian schools are also pretty memory-centered, which is quite a nuisance to most students, who attempt to memorize things without understanding them.
If you ask me, it just sucks to be them.

I too meet the same people three times before I learn their names, can't remember a date to save my life and would probably leave my head on a bus were it not attached to my neck, yet I have twice in a row come first in the entrance exam to my university, which consists of an IQ test, a language test and a general knowledge test. Go figure. (Actually, it's because geeks like trivia, but shhh! ;) )

Anyway, the point is: either eidetic memory suppresses your ability to dicriminate or the inability to discriminate allows everything to be stored in memory.
I, for one, am more inclined to the latter; I consider the ability to forget a very important filter which allows us to concentrate upon the important and dismiss the rest. And the ability to re-construct the less important bits is also very healthy mental exercise. One very related to language, at that.

Re:That's all fine and dandy... (1)

kevinadi (191992) | more than 7 years ago | (#18795403)

I have twice in a row come first in the entrance exam to my university

What? Did you forget that you were accepted the first time around? :)

Re:That's all fine and dandy... (1)

cp.tar (871488) | more than 7 years ago | (#18795479)

Heh, almost...

I wanted to study one other thing along with my first choice, actually.

Re:That's all fine and dandy... (1)

rpbird (304450) | more than 7 years ago | (#18803859)

Reminds me of an incident in trig class way back when. The instructor caught me trying to memorize all the different trig formulas. "Why are you doing that?" he said, and then proceeded to teach me how to derive all of them from the three basic formulas. A good memory is often overvalued.

Re:That's all fine and dandy... (1)

OneoFamillion (968420) | more than 7 years ago | (#18809981)

I wish someone would have caught me doing that too, 'cause I tried to memorize it all, didn't succeed, and fell into apathy. Now, years later, I surely could do with some math skills here at the university, but I can't even friggin' figure out where to start... I wonder if there are any math books that focus on the essentials, i.e. how it all hangs together, not just spewin' forth formula after formula. I'm sure a bright enough individual could see it all by him/herself, I'm just not too certain that I'm one of them...

Re:That's all fine and dandy... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18795433)

I do hope no-one's looking forward to some sort of treatment which would drastically improve our memory

Hell yeah, thinking of the vast amount of money I've spent on alcohol trying to forget, that would be a kick in the face for sure.

So, have they -found- anything? (1)

Torvaun (1040898) | more than 7 years ago | (#18794255)

It's not a big surprise that genes fire during the learning process. There's gotta be something happening chemically, otherwise none of the drugs that actually help would. Do they actually know which genes do what, as far as the learning is concerned? Or is this just a 'hey, let's formally announce this so it looks like we're making progress' type of thing?

What if.... (2, Interesting)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | more than 7 years ago | (#18794333)

If they monitor their own genes on the computer, will they learn which genes activate? And thus by learning activate them...

Temporary memory boost? (3, Interesting)

Jbcarpen (883850) | more than 7 years ago | (#18794341)

This may yet still be years off, but this sort of thing could lead to the development of drugs that enhance the ability to learn in a temporary fashion. That is, you are able to remember everything you read in the few hours the drug is in effect, but once the drug wears off you keep the memories of what you learned while on it without having a permanent eidetic memory (believe me, that could drive you insane.)

Re:Temporary memory boost? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18794555)

I believe certain drugs do this already, like amephetamine. Not sure if it actually boosts your memory or that it has to do with the fact that you tend to be more interested in the whatever you're doing (mostly talking about people who use it as an aid to studying).

Re:Temporary memory boost? (2, Interesting)

cp.tar (871488) | more than 7 years ago | (#18795209)

My grandmother swears by amphetamines; she used to use them to prepare exams in med school.

That was before they were illegal, of course... yet even today she says she doesn't know why they're illegal, for she'd used them and she's quite fine.

Her liver condition certainly has nothing to do with that.

Luckily, she dropped out; with that kind of attitude, it's a damned good thing she never graduated.

Re:Temporary memory boost? (1)

Hektor_Troy (262592) | more than 7 years ago | (#18795351)

Her liver condition certainly has nothing to do with that.
She's your GRAND-mother ... in other words, she's two generations older than you. That'd put her in her 60's. Maybe 70's.

But her liver condition certainly has nothing to do with that.

Re:Temporary memory boost? (1)

cp.tar (871488) | more than 7 years ago | (#18795465)

You mean, the liver condition she's been living with for the past 30-40 years at the very least?

Re:Temporary memory boost? (1)

dsanfte (443781) | more than 7 years ago | (#18795737)

I think it speaks more to some pretty ridiculous stress levels that have historically been placed upon doctors-to-be.

Re:Temporary memory boost? (1)

intercodes (819880) | more than 7 years ago | (#18794769)

"If I have seen further it is by standing on ye shoulders of giants"

Will we be seeing even greater things if everyone in this world one day could get hold of a recipe to boost their memory? Boosting memory is not equal to intelligence but at least a large number of people could connect the patterns and do some great stuff.

I can't wait for the day our descendents create a big new world parallel to Earth and make it a sanctuary , even withstanding Black Hole rampage.

Re:Temporary memory boost? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18797391)

"If I have seen further it is by standing on ye shoulders of giants"
What?

Think of the children ;) (1)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 7 years ago | (#18794875)

Well, seriously now, just the thought of any kind of brain-enhancing medicine makes me worry. How long until some dumbass parents stuff their kids full of such medicine, in the name of giving them a future?

I know my parents, for all the other good and (plenty of) bad things they did, pretty much buried me alive in extra homework. I'm not even sure it was as much for a future as such, as because in the circle of mom's and dad's equally nerdy friends they could brag about my achievements. I even pretty much ended up teaching dad physics so he can brag that he taught me. How's that for a stupid way to get your childhood stolen?

But at least thankfully no chemicals were involved. If such medicine existed, would I have been pretty much pickled in it?

Plus, much as I despise the western world aversion to learning in high school, in this scenario I'd worry more about the parts of the world that do take school seriously. E.g., most of Asia. After one guy starts taking this kind of stuff, how long until half the class gets marinated in it? You know, just so their grades don't look any worse. Little Tanaka is getting all A+, why can't you? Time to start giving you medicine each morning before school.

And if someone wants to say, "so what? It just makes them finally learn something in school"... how about the side-effects? E.g., how about remembering clearly and in detail, for the rest of your life, each time the school bully humiliated you? That's a scary thought.

What about later? With the drive since the 90's to find a way to write programs with cheap, summarily re-trained ex-burger-flippers instead of expensive nerds, how long until this kind of stuff becomes almost mandatory at work? Hey, think of how much the company could save if you don't keep forgetting (and having to rediscover) what each piece of the code does. How long until you have to drink the kool-aid before getting any training, or before each meeting? Hey, they're discussing important stuff there. (E.g., the boss's vacation.) You can't go and forget everything after a couple of hours. Or immediately, due to the wonderful effect of crap Powerpoint presentations [slashdot.org] .

It's not even as much wild guesses or slippery slope: it already happened in sports. The reason for forbidding steroids and other doping isn't only because one guy might get an undeserved medal, but because it creates a pressure for everyone to do the same. Once Mr X wins a medal based on being pickled in chemicals, then everyone else gets told by their trainer/manager/whatever, "you start drinking this stuff, or I'm finding someone else who does."

Re:Temporary memory boost? (1)

gekoscan (1001678) | more than 7 years ago | (#18795005)

The already have this it's called modafinil. Alertec here in canada. :)

Re:Temporary memory boost? (1)

cp.tar (871488) | more than 7 years ago | (#18795227)

Memory is a complex mechanism, both in the storage and in the retrieval part.

I somehow doubt that such drugs would be of any good use; even if you were able to memorize things while under the influence, your brain would still have to sort it all out and you'd still have trouble recalling everything - at least while not under the influence.

Really, I do loathe the mere idea of chemically achieving something that could be done much better by simple practice.

We needn't be super-human; if most people were human enough, even that would be a start...

Even better.. (1)

baffled (1034554) | more than 7 years ago | (#18795965)

It could lead to the development of drugs that reduce the ability to learn temporarily. Make it airborne, put it in a spray bottle - MIB, anyone?

Re:Temporary memory boost? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18796789)

Isn't there already something on the market that does this? Ginko ebola, ginko balboa or something like that?

Re:Temporary memory boost? (1)

resonte (900899) | more than 7 years ago | (#18797011)

Ginkgo biloba.

A natural herb used in asia for centuries, sold as a nootropic in the west. The research on it is a bit flakey, however it certainly does makes me feel more relaxed yet alert. However it can not compare to amphetamines.

Balance of Power (1)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 7 years ago | (#18797431)

this sort of thing could lead to the development of drugs that enhance the ability to learn in a temporary fashion. That is, you are able to remember everything you read in the few hours the drug is in effect, but once the drug wears off you keep the memories of what you learned while on it without having a permanent eidetic memory
And so would probably be made illegal in education like steroids are in sports.

"Where's my revision timetable, Lister? It's Saturday night. No one works Saturday night. You don't work any night. You don't work any day. Skive hard, play hard, that's our motto. Lister, where did you put my revision timetable. It's Saturday night. No one works Saturday night. You don't work..."

What's up, neuroscientists? (1)

hmccabe (465882) | more than 7 years ago | (#18794403)

Okay, I read TFA and I'm a bit curious how this works, having no idea how neuroscience lab work is conducted. They say that they use a computer to test how the factors, CREB and ZIF something react with specific genes. How is this done?

Re:What's up, neuroscientists? (1)

asobala (563713) | more than 7 years ago | (#18795235)

They say that they use a computer to test how the factors, CREB and ZIF something react with specific genes. How is this done?

Genes are activated when a protein binds to the DNA sequence normally found upstream of a gene. Each protein binds to a specific DNA sequence (although there are often acceptable variations within the sequence). So if a protein binds to CATTACG, then you can find which genes may be activated by this protein by scanning for genes that have the signature CATTACG upstream of them.

This is dead easy to do. Unfortunately, due to the combinatorial nature of gene control, and the fact that binding sequences tend not to be very well characterised, you get quite a lot of false positives. So it's a useful indicator, but one that normally needs to be validated by real experiments.

The article may grossly understate the work that's actually done, but assuming that it's accurate, that's all they did. Basically they did a grep of the genome for binding sequences for these two transcription factors and printed out which genes contained the correct sequences. But without experimental validation (which isn't technically hard, with microarray technology) - it means zilch. It's basically a few weeks of an undergraduate project, made into news.

(I am a molecular biologist)

Re:What's up, neuroscientists? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18799047)

They are transcription factors, which pretty much mean that when they bind to DNA, they induce transcription of an mRNA and then that mRNA should be made into a protein which will do some sort of job in the cell.

I would imagine they somehow isolated the factors using column chromotography and centrifugation, then did ChiP (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chromatin_immunoprec ipitation [wikipedia.org] ). Then they know that those factors at the very least bind to a region of DNA. If their structure can be derived via X-Ray Crystallography they would probably find that the molecular structure will be very similar to other transcription factors which have a variety of highly conserved motifs, like zinc finger... leucine zipper... ect.

Mixed feelings (4, Interesting)

Stripsurge (162174) | more than 7 years ago | (#18794417)

On the one hand pinpointing all the genes involved in memory will undoubtedly help towards finding cures for the myriad of memory related disorders. Hooray!

On the other hand I can't help but feel like unlocking the secrets of the mind will inevitably lead to the obsolescence of the everyday human. Granted, we're still a long way off from creating super smart people with the flick of a switch but one day it will happen. We've already seen the creation of super strong rats and the like (too lazy to find links). The brain is quite complex however and chances are some mad scientists somewhere are bound to created a more than a few scrambled melons before striking success.

With each new discovery of the human genome we inch closer to fully understanding it. Once we have a complete grasp there are bound to be those who wish to further the species with "unnatural means". I would argue that we would only be speeding what would otherwise take thousands of years to take place (although there are certainly no guarantees we'll ever get much smarter as a whole). If survival of the fittest is the name of the game, and why would we not want further generations to be the best they can be? I suppose that can be answered by any number of sci-fi flicks, but Hollywood seems to paint a grim picture of genetically modified people as if they automatically become evil, or at least have the chance of snapping and turning evil at any moment. I see no reason we can't eventually re-create the likes of a Da Vinci. The only problem is that this type of work doesn't benefit an individual because he would be contributing to his own demise, the end of "natural" humans. If something that at least somewhat looks/acts/feels like a human makes it off this planet and onto other worlds I'd be happy knowing we lived on in at least some form.

Re:Mixed feelings (1)

lumpenprole (114780) | more than 7 years ago | (#18795039)

On the other hand I can't help but feel like unlocking the secrets of the mind will inevitably lead to the obsolescence of the everyday human

This research is nowhere near even coming close to that level. However, I do have one thing to say about your lament. I damn well hope so! Have you seen what a good job the everyday human is doing at running this planet? If anything is due for an upgrade, it's the everyday human.

Re:Mixed feelings (2, Interesting)

symes (835608) | more than 7 years ago | (#18795203)

Thoughtful post...

I see no reason we can't eventually re-create the likes of a Da Vinci.


I would disagree with this point, however. I think we do recreate Da Vinci's every day of every year. But most of these guys don't look right, don't get the right opportunities, are born to parents who don't give a stuff, are born into poverty, etc., etc..

But what if you could, hypothetically, re-create Da Vinci? He might mature, apply his enormous intellect to his creation, realise that the optimum characteristics required to survive our murky world are stupidity and aggression, successfully argue in court that you purposefully set him at a disadvantage and sue you out of existence.

Re:Mixed feelings (4, Interesting)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 7 years ago | (#18795755)

The process also totally ignores environmental factors and random chance.

I'm not arguing that Da Vinci wasn't brilliant. But in today's society, would he even be noticed? We have more geniuses than ever, and as such, they are less noteworthy than ever. In Da Vinci's time, it was dangerous and difficult to be a genius. Being different was a lot harder back then, and if you should come up with an idea that was against the local religion, you would probably die. Now if you go against the grain, you merely get screamed at, screamed with, and get a lot of publicity. Not necessarily in that order.

Re:Mixed feelings (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18808531)

He would claim the copyrights of his past work!

Re:Mixed feelings (1)

ari wins (1016630) | more than 7 years ago | (#18795993)

Rest assured, economics and ego will always find a way to keep a financial/mental "lower class" around. Those with a choice like to have the broken and downtrodden near at hand, else there would be no one to look down on and use as examples to your children. A fact I count on for my existence to have any merit. I mean, if I can't be that guy in the ratty clothes that you use to scare your children into becoming something more, what do I have left?

Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine (0, Offtopic)

roshanpv (1090393) | more than 7 years ago | (#18795489)

Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration

Misleading (2, Informative)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 7 years ago | (#18795739)

This is not experimental article. [biomedcentral.com] . This is 100% computational study. And again (I said it elsewhere several times already): it would be nice if submitters will make a little bit of extra effort and give a link to the original peer-revied publication.

Worth publishing in a scientific journal? May be. Worth the front page of /.? No.

Whats so new about this ? (1)

Wolf von Niflheim (945658) | more than 7 years ago | (#18795961)


I fail to see what makes this article front page material. For starters CREB is a transcription factor that has implications in much more functions that neuronal ones (its just researched a lot in that context). It responds to cAMP concentrations which is a widely used secondary messenger in cellular information flow. Its present in many organisms ranging from slugs to humans.

A novel way of finding genes that might be regulated by CREB, the article doesnt discribe the exact algoritm but this isnt exactly new either: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sequence_alignment#Mo tif_finding [wikipedia.org]

Screening the genome for possible locations of these CREB responsive genes, is that new? Nope not exactly: http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/abstract/102/12/44 59 [pnas.org]
"Genome-wide analysis of cAMP-response element binding protein occupancy, phosphorylation, and target gene activation in human tissues" (received for review January 14, 2005)

Im not saying that CREB isnt involved in long term memory (which it is), but this approach seems an inappropriate way to tackle the problem, I can see the false positives piling up since CREB is implemented in general cellular survival pathways and a whole plethora of other systems. So it certainly isnt THE answer to brain function. Id really like to see that people would finaly abandon the outdated 1 to 1 gene phenotype/function view that sparks many of those populistic articles

If you really want to conceptually tackle the problem of how brain and memory works, youd better take a look at epigenetics: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epigenetics [wikipedia.org]

Research dollars wasted? (1)

jpellino (202698) | more than 7 years ago | (#18796417)

That's just sick and ... what? Oh. Oh! "Learning". Sorry. I read it "Leering".

plots.. (1)

mattr (78516) | more than 7 years ago | (#18797059)

Sounds quite neat, I'd go into this field maybe if I was starting over again.. or maybe not. Unfortunately it also makes a number of horror and terror plots spring to mind including enough for a bookshelf of novels and finally a reason why people shouldn't bring viral vector laden liquid onto planes (besides their own blood). WMD just got a lot cheaper..

great memories - not great memory (1)

boyfaceddog (788041) | more than 7 years ago | (#18797073)

I was under the impression that most people had great memories, just lousy retreival systems. We remember the dramatic things and the important things in part becasue those things are linked to something else - like other important facts or strong emotions.

While this research is fantastic and will surely result in breakthoughs to help people who cannot store information, I'm pretty sure it won't help me remember my father-in-law's birthday.

So they've... (1)

Alzheimers (467217) | more than 7 years ago | (#18797461)

So they've come up with a theory to test the proposal that would give a clue as to what....umm, what were talking about again?

nice job of publicity (2, Informative)

tgibbs (83782) | more than 7 years ago | (#18797911)

Carnegie Mellon's media people seem to have done a very good job of publicizing some fairly routine work. Database searches to identify targets of transcription factors are fairly routine. The authors may have an improved approach, but the paper contains no experimental validation. And while there is plenty of evidence implicating these transcription factors in learning and memory, it does not necessarily follow that every gene regulated by these factors is involved in learning and memory. There are other transcription factors, both positive and negative, and transcription factors can interact in complex combinatorial ways.

Not just a proposal (1)

aibob (1035288) | more than 7 years ago | (#18798513)

Original Carnegie Mellon press release: http://www.cmu.edu/news/archive/2007/April/april17 _genes.shtml [cmu.edu]
The actual journal article: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2202/8/20 [biomedcentral.com]

This is not simply a proposal, though you have to go to the actual journal article to determine that. The press release is so hyped up though that it's hard to see that basically all they're doing is applying two well-known bioinformatics techniques to the problem of finding previously unknown/unstudied genes related to learning and memory.

The first technique is simply to see what interacts with known genes (CREB and zif268); since proteins function by interacting with each other, you'd expect that most - not all - of the proteins that CREB and zif268 interact with will be related to memory and learning. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protein_interaction [wikipedia.org]

The second technique is just an application of the fact that similar proteins from different organisms (i.e. homologs) usually have the same function. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homology_modeling [wikipedia.org]

These computational techniques can be very useful in hypothesizing which genes may be involved, so that you can then go to the lab and either confirm or reject your hypothesis. The authors did not do so, but they did do a search of the experimental literature, which gives a partial confirmation. But the fact remains that this work is simply the application of known computational techniques. In all, I'd say it's a nice bit of work and worth my time (as a PhD student with an emphasis in bioinformatics) ... but not worth a press release or getting excited about.

Angelman syndrome- genes & learning research (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18809907)

anyone have any opinions how this fits together with the new angelman research sumarised at http://www.huliq.com/10255/angelman-syndrome-defic its-rescued-in-mice [huliq.com] thanks
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