London, April 26: Scientists at Bristol University have taken a major step forward in understanding how our memory works, a breakthrough which they claim could help in restoring the brain in Alzheimer`s patients in the future.

In their experiment, they have been able to prevent visual recognition memory in laboratory rodents by blocking certain mechanisms that control the way that nerve cells in the brain communicate, the `Neuron` journal reported.

According to the scientists, this demonstrates that cellular and molecular mechanisms in the brain have been identified which may provide a key to understanding processes of recognition memory.

"This is a major step forward in our understanding of recognition memory. We`ve been able to show that key processes controlling synaptic communication are also vital in learning and memory," lead researcher Prof Zafar Bashir said.

Added co-researcher Dr Sarah Griffiths, "Nerve cells in the perirhinal cortex of brain are known to be vital for visual recognition memory. Using a combination of biological techniques and behavioural testing, we examined whether the mechanisms involved in synaptic plasticity are also vital for visual recognition memory."

In their experiment, they were able to identify a key molecular mechanism that controls synaptic plasticity in the perirhinal cortex. They then demonstrated that blocking the same molecular mechanism that controls synaptic plasticity also prevented visual recognition memory in rats. This shows such memory relies on specific molecular processes in the brain.

"The next step is to try to understand the processes that enable visual memories to be held in our brains for such long periods of time, and why these mechanisms begin to break down in old age," Prof Bashir said.

Bureau Report