Biological clock may shut down long-term memory at night

HOUSTON, Feb. 18, 2005 If you crammed for tests by pulling 'all nighters' in school, ever wonder why your memory is now a bit foggy on what you learned? A University of Houston professor may have the answer with his research on the role of circadian rhythms in long-term learning and memory.

Arnold Eskin, the John and Rebecca Moores Professor of Biology and Biochemistry at UH, was recently awarded two grants totaling $2,472,528 from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to continue pursuing his investigations of memory formation and the impact of the biological clock on learning and memory.

Scientists have known for a while that the brain's biological (or circadian) clock influences natural body cycles, such as sleep and wakefulness, metabolic rate and body temperature. New research from Eskin suggests the circadian clock also may regulate the formation of memory at night. This new research focuses on "Circadian Modulation of Long-term Memory Formation" and "Long-term Regulation of Glutamate Uptake in Aplysia," with NIH funding to be disbursed over four years.

"There is a lot of research going on in memory," Eskin said. "How do we remember things given that we don't have a camera in our brain to record events? What changes take place in our brains that allow us to remember? These grants are about fundamental learning and memory and about modulation of memory."

For the grant on circadian modulation of long-term memory formation, Eskin will continue studies based on his data that reveal the circadian clock modulates several forms of long-term memory in the marine snail Aplysia.

These studies involved experiments on the defensive reflexes and feeding responses of Aplysia. Eskin's results showed that Aplysia form long-term memory when they are trained during the day but not when they are trained at night. However, short-term memory of the same behaviors is formed equally well during the day and night, which mig

Contact: Lisa Merkl
University of Houston

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