Memory is probably the single most important brain process. It defines our personality, gives us the sense of individuality and determines our actions. Yet memory also fails us: we forget birthdays or the name of someone we met the day before. By contrast, there are incidents that we recall with clarity even decades later. For instance, we remember 9-11, but surprisingly, we also recall details such as where we were that day and what we were doing, while we do not from September 11 in other years. It is now appreciated that synthesis of new proteins in the synapses while a memory is being formed is critical for making the memory last, a process that is reinforced by emotional input, but what the proteins entail and how they act remains poorly understood.
PROMEMO aims to identify and understand the function of memory associated proteins that determines the persistence of a memory. To reach this aim, we will combine cutting-edge techniques in proteomics, complex structural biology, optogenetic memory engineering of tailored mouse models, electrophysiology of synaptic memory function, and high-resolution brain imaging in behaving animals.
We expect our studies will help explaining fundamental traits of cognition, emotion, and learning. In a longer perspective, understanding memory-associated proteins may help identifying molecular targets for memory-associated disorders such as anxiety, depression, and dementia.