Dopamine recently made the news here on ASD Research with work being undertaken by Vanderbilt scientists focusing on “willingness to work ” that has as we highlighted “important implications for the treatment of attention-deficit disorder, depression, schizophrenia and other forms of mental illness characterized by decreased motivation.”
Now comes further interesting research surrounding dopamine and memory undertaken by researchers at the prestigious Scripps Research Institute campus in Florida.
Team Identifies Neurotransmitters that Lead to Forgetting
“Now, in a study that appears in the May 10, 2012 issue of the journal Neuron, scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute have pinpointed a mechanism that is essential for forming memories in the first place and, as it turns out, is equally essential for eliminating them after memories have formed.
“This study focuses on the molecular biology of active forgetting,” said Ron Davis, chair of the Scripps Research Department of Neuroscience who led the project. “Until now, the basic thought has been that forgetting is mostly a passive process. Our findings make clear that forgetting is an active process that is probably regulated.”
The research itself is indeed fascinating with …
“The results showed that a small subset of dopamine neurons actively regulate the acquisition of memories and the forgetting of these memories after learning, using a pair of dopamine receptors in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in a number of processes including punishment and reward, memory, learning and cognition.
But how can a single neurotransmitter, dopamine, have two seemingly opposite roles in both forming and eliminating memories? And how can these two dopamine receptors serve acquiring memory on the one hand, and forgetting on the other?
The study suggests that when a new memory is first formed, there also exists an active, dopamine-based forgetting mechanism—ongoing dopamine neuron activity—that begins to erase those memories unless some importance is attached to them, a process known as consolidation that may shield important memories from the dopamine-driven forgetting process.”
This is what caught my eye though when it came to savants. Implications.
“Savants have a high capacity for memory in some specialized areas,” he said. “But maybe it isn’t memory that gives them this capacity, maybe they have a bad forgetting mechanism. This also might be a strategy for developing drugs to promote cognition and memory—what about drugs that inhibit forgetting as cognitive enhancers?”