Our brain stores memories into groups instead of recording every single memory, that way the recollection of one significant memory triggers the recall of others connected by time. But as we age this ability starts to decrease and our brain gradually loses the ability to link related memories.
A new study by researchers from UCLA, published in the journal Nature, reported a key molecular mechanism behind memory linking. The team also identified a way to restore this brain function in middle-aged mice by using an FDA-approved drug.
A Gene that Filters our Memories
The team believes that their findings could be a possible early intervention for the treatment of dementia. The gene called CCR5 encodes the receptor with the same name, the CCR5 receptor. This is the same receptor used by HIV to infect the brain cells and cause memory loss in AIDS patients.
The researchers observed that by boosting CCR5 gene expression in the brains of middle-aged mice their memory linking was interfered and animals forgot the connection between 2 cages.
When the gene was deleted in the animals, they were able to link memories that normal mice could not.
During previous studies, the same team used maraviroc, an approved medication for HIV treatment, and found that the medication suppressed CCR5 in the brains of mice.
Their findings suggest that the same medication could be used off-label to help restore middle-aged memory loss and to reverse cognitive deficits caused by HIV.
According to Alcino Silva, a professor of neurobiology and psychiatry at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, life would be impossible if we remembered absolutely everything, that is why she believes that the brain uses the CCR5 gene to interfere with the ability to link memories, enabling the brain to connect only meaningful experiences and filtering less significant details.
University of California – Los Angeles Health Sciences. “Scientists identify how the brain links memories: HIV drug could combat middle-aged memory loss, study suggests.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 May 2022. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2022/05/220525110920.htm>.