Relaxing the Brakes Can Lead to Improved Memory in Damaged or Old Brains

By Meghan Mulvey

Memory has been linked to turning certain genes on and off. When people are young, this process happens with ease; however, as our brains age along with us, it becomes more difficult to unwind the tightly packed DNA within our cells. As a result, it is more challenging for cells to use certain genes that are in these tightly wound segments of DNA. In this past, problems with forming memories have been thought to be a product of declining circadian rhythm function over time. Recently, a team at the University of California-Irvine found that HDAC3, histone deacetylase 3, can be linked to memory problems with age. HDAC3 causes DNA to become too compact, making it difficult for a gene known as Period 1 to be activated. Period 1 aids with the formation of new memories, so memory issues may arise when it cannot be used. When HDAC3 is removed from cells, the DNA is not as compact, allowing for Period 1 to be utilized. The research team was able to link overactive HDAC3 in the hippocampus area of the brain to problems with forming memories. As a result, new therapies that involve decreasing HDAC3 activity can aid with the development of new memories in older people.


University of California - Irvine. (2018, February 16). Restoring memory creation in older or damaged brains: Crucial gene gains new life after molecular brake is lifted. ScienceDaily . Retrieved February 18, 2018 from