Science Saturday

Did you forget what you were about to say? It probably wasn’t important anyway—really. Stanford researchers have learned that the brain’s ability to suppress irrelevant memories makes it easier to remember the important stuff.

Brice Kuhl, a doctoral student who worked on the study, explained, “Remembering something actually has a cost for memories that are related but irrelevant.” But this cost is beneficial: The brain’s ability to weaken unimportant memories and experiences enables it to function more efficiently in the future, Kuhl said.

This function, which is carried out in the prefrontal cortex region behind the forehead, helps the brain; it doesn’t have to work as hard in the future when it tries to remember an important memory because the competing but irrelevant memories have been weakened. “The prefrontal cortex is the CEO of the brain; it governs cognition, bringing [memories] into line with your goals,” Associate Professor Anthony Wagner said. “It’s an important property of our memory system that the memories change in both directions—they get both stronger and weaker—and that this confers benefits,” by allowing the brain to use less of its computational resources to recall what’s important, thereby making them available for other processes.

Super flySuper Fly: He’s Got a Plan to Stick it to the Man. Scientists in California have figured out how to make the fruit fly live longer. As reported online in Nature Chemical Biology and in a press release from the University of Southern California, humans may benefit from the super fruit fly. The research revealed that a single protein can inhibit aging, which holds implications for human longevity and for treatment of some of the world’s most feared diseases. The study describes a new method for blocking receptors involved in aging and disease across many species, including humans.

Receptors are proteins that transmit signals across a cell membrane. In the fruit fly, the research team manufactured short proteins that blocked a receptor involved in fruit fly aging. Flies with a blocked receptor saw their lives extended by a third, with no apparent side effects.

[Both items via Science Daily. ]

2 Comments Science Saturday

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  2. puddlehead June 9, 2007 at 2:21 pm

    Wow! especially about the fly stuff. I have a vested interest in the relationship between bioethics, religion, and the forward plunging into the innerworkings of life, whether flies, humans, or cattle. So, if our lifespan is roughly say, 75, we’d be able to add 25 years? What would we do with it?

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