Tonight I was thinking about this question, How is it exactly that we store information in our brains? In this case simple information, say a phone number. Intrigued by this I asked around and found out that most adults remember the phone numbers they had when they were children and I wondered, where and how is that phone number stored. I went to the Wikipedia but the results were poor. The Wikipedia article article on memory basically says that we don’t know how information is stored in our brain. Concerned about this I started googling my own guesses of how memory is stored in our brains which is namely that that there must be a molecular biology of memory. My thinking here was that we are now, with our understanding of memory where we were with our understanding of genetics before Watson Crick. That we can describe the phenomenom but not how it really takes place but that the answer could be similar to that of genetics in the sense that there could be a molecular biology of memory. Interestingly when I googled that exact phrase, the “Molecular Biology of Memory” to see if anybody had found a DNA type compound that accounted for our ability to memorize I found an article that is commented by different web sites called just that Molecular Biology of Memory. I was also glad to see that it was written by a Nobel prize winner scientist Eric R Kandel . Reading about Eric R Kandel I found intriguing that he had started his career doing psychology work and then evolved towards molecular biology. Most scientists seem to go the other way as they get older. Eric R Kandel instead started figuring out how is it that we can actually store concrete pieces of information. But his is not the only theory.

There seems to be two theories about memory, one involves synaptic patterns the other molecular biology. Personally I just can’t see how synaptic patterns could be the answer. I can imagine how synapsis are crucial to send experiences into storage but the long term storage (of the kind of the childhood phone number) should be something that is altered at the molecular level and stays like that. Recently my step dad was in a coma and came out of it with his memory intact. I find it hard to believe that his synapsis were active while he was in coma. Long term memory must be something pretty stable if it can survive a 10 day coma. My guess, and this is a wild guess, is that the answer could lie into some molecules that are reshaped when experiences take place in a way that after they change the same way until we die or until we run out of storage space in which case we either find other places with available chemicals to reshape or we simply forget. Now how could this exactly take place? What is the DNA, makes RNA, makes protein of memory? I don’t know but whoever finds out will certainly get another nobel prize. The opportunities of repairing and expanding memory sound sci fi now but so did the mapping of the human genome as little as 20 years ago. Personally I would be interested to fund research in this area out of my foundation or even fund a company that works on this. It’s been a while since I started Medicorp Sciences of Montreal together with Claudio Cuello and other scientists at McGill University and the quest for the biochemicals of memory could be a good come back into the field.

Follow Martin Varsavsky on Twitter: twitter.com/martinvars

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