Working Memory Genes and the Brain
Recent research into the genes associated with working memory have found a number of genes that are associated with working-memory in humans. Working-memory is crucial to everyday life, it is the temporary storage of information that is relevant to a particular task at hand, for example following directions. The search for genes that are associated with working-memory in humans is important because there are several neuropsychological medical conditions that contain deficits in working-memory. Medical conditions that contain deficits in working-memory are wide and varied, two of the most commonly known are schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease. The search for genes that are implemented in working-memory can help in the development of gene targeted medication that can help in the treatment of these medical conditions.
Research has identified some of the genes that are implemented with working-memory, this sheds some light on the molecular mechanisms of working-memory. The results of these studies highlight the role of dynamic network connectivity, as mediated by dopaminergic signalling in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC).
FXYD2 gene has been found to encode a membrane protein that regulates sodium and potassium ions transportation. Dopamine inhibits this membrane protein by increasing cAMP through binding to D1 receptors. The gene FXYD2 thus, has an important part in maintaining the excitability of neurons that might have a crucial role in working-memory tasks.
The SCNIA gene mediates the construction of a sodium channel (Nav1.1), which is associated with working-memory performance in immediate recall tasks. GABAergic neurotransmission is impaired in ‘SCNIA mice’, were there has been a 50% reduction in NAV1.1 channels in the prefrontal cortex. GABArgic hypofunction in the prefrontal cortex is a popular theory of the working-memory deficit in schizophrenia.
Furthermore, HEYI gene knockout mice exhibit impaired performance on the Y-maze task, a popular measure of working-memory in rodents.
Thus, this highlights just three of the genes that have been implemented with working-memory in recent research. Genes FXYD2, SCNIA and HEYI have all been found in influence working-memory. This research shows promising results for the future of drug therapies in conditions with working-memory deficits.
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