Session 3 - Memory: from order, to reorder, to oblivion
Acquisition and reliable recall of relevant information is a vital faculty of all higher animals. Obviously, memory formation requires adaptive changes in the brain. The precise nature of these changes and the underlying mechanisms are, however, incompletely understood. Learning and memory are one of the most active fields in modern neuroscience, not at least due to the enormous burden of memory-related neuropsychiatric diseases.
In this session, three leading experts will summarize recent insights into the mechanisms underlying memory formation. The contributions complement each other by addressing different system levels, including molecular and cellular mechanisms, coordinated activity patterns in neuronal networks, and systemic functions at the level of adaptive behavior, cognition and emotions.
Martin Korte (Braunschweig) will highlight how lasting changes at the level of neuronal interconnections (synapses) occur. He will focus on the delicate balance between long-term stability and plasticity of neuronal structures and explain the critical role of two key molecules (the brain-derived neurotrophic factor and the myelin-associated protein Nogo-A). Hannah Monyer (Heidelberg) will then explore memory-related mechanisms at the level of neuronal networks. She will explain the role of inhibitory interneurons which coordinate and synchronize large groups of neurons into a common activity regime. Modern molecular approaches allow manipulating these neurons with great selectivity and, thereby, study their contribution to cognition and behavior in rodents. Finally, Mara Mather (Davis) will address the complex interactions between cognition and emotions by asking how emotional arousal affects the formation of memories. This question will highlight the role of neuromodulatory substances like noradrenalin which interact with classical synaptic transmitters, thereby enhancing or lowering neuronal plasticity.
Together, the session will discuss important mechanisms which help to understand the power and the limitations of memory formation in healthy subjects. As an outlook, we will touch the pressing question how these mechanisms are affected in different disease states.