New findings on memory impairment in epilepsy
Study by the University of Bonn elucidates a potential mechanism
People with chronic epilepsy often experience impaired memory. Researchers at the University of Bonn have now found a mechanism in mice that could explain these deficits. The German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE) was also involved in the study. The results are published in the journal Brain, but a preliminary version is already available online.
Suppose you go to visit an acquaintance you have not been to see in a long time. Nevertheless, you ring the correct doorbell without hesitation: The apple tree in the front yard with the wooden birdhouse next to it, the bright red painted fence, the clinkered facade – all this signals that you are in the right place.
Each place has numerous characteristics that distinguish it and make it unmistakable as a whole. In order to remember a place, we therefore need to store the combination of these features (this can also include sounds or smells). Because only then can we confidently recognize it when we visit it again, and tell it apart from similar places.
It is possible that this retention of the exact combination of features is impaired in people with chronic epilepsy. At least the findings of the current study point in this direction. “In the study, we looked at neurons in the hippocampus of mice,” explains neuroscientist Dr. Nicola Masala of the Institute of Experimental Epileptology and Cognitive Sciences at the University Hospital Bonn.
The hippocampus is a region in the brain that plays a central role in memory processes. This is especially true for spatial memory: “In the hippocampus there are so-called place cells,” Masala says. “These help us remember places we have visited.” There are about one million different place cells in the mouse hippocampus. And each responds to a combination of specific environmental characteristics. So, to put it simply, there is also a place cell for “apple tree/birdhouse/fence”. […]
Participating Core Facilities: The authors acknowledge the support from the Microscopy Core Facility.
Participating institutions and funding:
The study was funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG).
Publication: N. Masala et al.: Targeting aberrant dendritic integration to treat cognitive comorbidities of epilepsy; Brain; DOI: 10.1093/brain/awac455