UT Southwestern researchers have identified more than 100 genes linked to memory in the human brain, providing researchers with new insight into understanding human memory. The findings of Dr. Genevieve Konopka and Dr. Bradley Lega of the O’Donnell Brain Institute could lead to a better course of treatment for conditions involving memory impairment.
Konopka, assistant professor of neuroscience at the institute, previously conducted research linking specific genes to resting-state brain behavior, and used this same assessment to study brain activity during active information processing. Through the combined expertise of Konopka and Lega, it was found that a different group of genes is used in memory processing than genes involved when the brain is in a resting state. Konopka says a number of these genes had not been previously linked to any brain process.
The doctors have been conducting memory research on patients with epilepsy, helping to identify the source of their seizures. Lega uses a robotic surgical assistant that places electrodes into the brains of epilepsy patients. He and his team map the brainwaves of the patients in order to understand what patterns are critical for successful memory formation. Lega hopes his discoveries will encourage other scientists to explore beyond their areas of expertise in hopes of expanding the research.
“This kind of collaboration is not possible unless high-quality neuroscience research and academically minded clinicians are in close physical and intellectual proximity,” Lega said in a statement. “I don’t think either of us working or thinking independently would’ve come up with this type of analysis. Ideally, the O’Donnell Brain Institute will be a natural incubator for these sorts of collaborations for a number of neuroscience fields.”