How the brain works … what it does, how it does it, and how well it does it … is a matter of how neurons are arranged in relation to each other, in circuits. But that is only part of the story. These neurons also need to function properly, and the connections between them need to function properly. For instance, it is thought that Einstein’s brain (he was a smart-guy, we assume) was not especially large, but it is though the had a somewhat better than average setup for keeping his neurons happy.
A protein called postsynaptic density-95 (PSD-95) acts as a structural element around which other components of the synapse … the “connection” between two nerurons” is built. The more PSD-95 available, the better the connection, according to MIT researchers with a recent paper in Nature.
It was already known that mice with an altered PDD95 gene … to produce an ineffective protein … had trouble with memory and learning.
The newly reported research describes the molecular processes associated with the function of this protein. There could be real-life applications of this work. According to Morgan H. Sheng, Menicon Professor of Neuroscience at MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory:
“Adding a phosphate group to a single amino acid allows PSD-95 to promote synapse size and strength, … Therefore, promoting this process could help improve cognitive function.”
This will be in the November 8th Nature and is reported here as well.