Irish scientists find arthritis ‘off’ switch; Chinese space station falling to Earth; New organ found; Holding on to memories in Alzheimer’s using implants

Chinese Space Station
The 9.4 tonne Chinese space station Tiangong-1 is set to fall to Earth over the easter weekend, but scientists are not sure exactly where (Photo: NBC News)

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What makes a memory? Prof Tomás Ryan, TCD will explain in public talk

Prof Tomas Ryan, TCD, will explain what a memory is, in a public talk on Wednesday 25th October (Source: TCD)

How are our memories, thoughts, and experiences stored in the brain?

The scientific search for what precisely makes a memory and the physical basis of self is older than science, psychology, or modern medicine.

The search even predates the theory of evolution and over the centuries has been led by priests and physicians, philosophers and physicists.

Only in recent time has a basic understanding of memory emerged from modern scientific investigations. Though such investigations are still in their infancy, some surprising findings have emerged.

In this public lecture, Assistant Professor in Trinity College Dublin’s School of Biochemistry and Immunology, Tomás Ryan, will discuss recent technology that he and his colleagues have developed that allows us to label and switch on (or off) specific memories.

Professor Ryan will also describe how such technology has allowed us to gain unprecedented insights into the true nature of memory loss, amnesia, and depression, before elaborating on the implications of such studies for our understanding of aging, dementia, mental health, and the nature of our own individuality.

The talk takes place in the Stanley Quek Theatre, Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute, Pearse Street.

Date: Wednesday, October 25th, 6:30 pm. Admission is FREE and all are welcome.

We don’t sleep to rest; we sleep to remember and learn

800px-Sleeping-girl
There is growing evidence that we sleep in order to lay down new memories and to re-organise our brain throughout life (Credit: Wikipedia)

We have always thought that sleep was simply to allow the body to rest, but it appears that it has more to do with laying down new memories and learning.

The amount of energy that is saved during sleep is negligible it seems, so there must be another reason.

The real reason we sleep, scientists believe, is to allow the brain to learn new skills and insights as we experience life.

The proposed link between formation of new memories and sleep is supported by the fact that we need less sleep as we age.

Newborns, who are hit with an avalanche of new information, sleep up to 16 hours, while adults sleep for about 8 hours.

Newborns are learning a language, and trying to make sense of all the sensory input that is coming at them, so it makes sense that they need a lot of sleep to process all of this data, while closing the eyes and preventing new information from coming in.

it appears there is also a strong link between sleep and the need to ‘flush’ potentially harmful proteins out of the brain, such as amyloid b proteins that are linked with Alzheimer’s. Brain cells shrink during sleep allowing more space for protein flushing.

Interview here with Declan Meehan on the East Coast FM Morning Show (23/1/14)