The protein is known as mBDNF, which stands for mature brain-derived neurotrophic factor. It appears to chemically alter neurons, boosting their ability to communicate with one another.
"Most of what we accomplish as human beings depends on what we learn," said Duane Alexander, M.D., Director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. "This discovery brings the possibility of studying this protein system in people with disorders of learning and memory and perhaps designing new medications that might help to compensate for these problems."
The study was conducted by NICHD's Petti Pang, Ph.D, and Bai Lu, Ph.D, along with their colleagues at NICHD, Weill Medical College of Cornell University in New York City, and The Chinese University of Hong Kong.
Researchers recognize two broad categories of memory--short term memory, and long term memory. Short term memory refers to the transient memories that last from minutes to hours. Long term memory refers to the ability to remember things for more than a day--sometimes for many years.
Scientists have suspected that BDNF played a role in memory, but had not known whether it exerted its effect directly, or in combination with other substances. The first clue came in 1996. Then, Dr. Lu and his colleagues reported in Nature that, in a laboratory simulation using rodent brain cells, BDNF fostered changes in the cells indicative of memory. In 1998 Nobel laureate Eric Kandel reported that tissue plasminogen activator was also involved in the forma
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NIH/National Institute of Child Health and Human Development