Before they become part of our consciousness, memories aren't much more than molecules. But how exactly do memories get stored in the brain?
With the help of mice and some advanced imaging techniques, scientists from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in New York recently sought to answer that question. This short video illustrates how the brain makes memories on a molecular level.
The team put fluorescent tags on messenger RNA (mRNA) molecules that code for beta-actin, a protein believed to be crucial for the formation of memories. As described in two studies published Jan. 24 in the journal Science, the team then stimulated neurons in the hippocampus -- the part of the brain where memories are formed -- and monitored a living brain cell.
What did they see?
Within 15 minutes, the mRNA molecules formed within the brain cell and traveled to its fingerlike projections, called dendrites, to synthesize the beta-actin protein. This protein strengthens connections between brain cells by altering the dendrites' shape, according to the researchers.
Check it all out in the video above, or watch the gif below.