Scientists have been studying the molecular basis for learning and memory function. Do learning and memory have a molecular basis? Researchers have been trying to track the molecules responsible for our learning and memorizing abilities. During these studies, they have been able to identify changes in neurons associated with learning and remembering.
Communication in the Brain
In the brain, genes and biochemicals interact with each other at the synapses, where you find a gap between neurons. During this communication, new synapses can form, and these can facilitate the learning and memorizing processes.
A memory forms at a synapse, when something stimulates the presynaptic terminal. What is called the action potential causes a change in the electrical charge across the membrane. As a result, different ions with varying electrical charge rush in. During this process, they stimulate the presynaptic terminal.
In that terminal, you find vesicles containing glutamate which then causes a fusion of the membranes. Here, you also find receptors, all reacting differently to glutamate. Combined, they change the shape of the receptor. This change in shape forces magnesium ions out of its channel which leads to the unblocking of the channel.
Subsequently, calcium rushes in to bind with calmodulin. Once bound, they activate a protein called CaMKII. Subsequently, a long chain of protein changes ensues. These changes lead to the creation of new synapses. After years of neuroscientific research, scientists now believe that this is the basis of our long-term memory.
Scientists are still trying to work out the molecular basis for learning and memory function. Since our brain is a very complex organ indeed, they are only beginning to understand the molecular processes. A large number of molecular processes remains unknown, and it may take decades to fully understand the molecular basis for learning and memory function.