University of Illinois at Chicago
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Plastic Memory

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posted on 2011-04-14, 00:00 authored by Ken Morris
"The mechanisms by which we process and store information are the subject of great controversy. Memories are predominantly viewed as concrete ‘engrams’ that are stored in specific regions of the brain, much like computers store data and programs. However, the brain is constantly remodeling, a property known as synaptic plasticity, and our memories are imperfect. A memory may not be a distinct entity, but rather the brain’s attempt to recreate a past event in order to prepare us for the future. In this way, the brain draws on its vast ever-changing networks to put the pieces together. This image shows localization of the protein alpha-endosulfine in the brain using a diaminobenzidine stain. Alpha-endosulfine modulates ion flow through the cell membrane and may play a major role in generating synaptic plasticity. The image highlights pyramidal neurons in the rat hippocampus, an area of the brain widely associated with memory processing. There are distinct layers, including a pyramidal cell body layer that is most intensely stained, and a layer of axons carrying information ventrolaterally away from the cell bodies. This type of organization is unique to the hippocampus and conveys a shared sense of purpose for these pyramidal cells."


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Entry in 2010 in The Image of Research, a competition for students in graduate or professional degree programs at UIC, sponsored by UIC's Graduate College and the University Library. Images of award recipients and honorable mention images on exhibition in the Richard J. Daley Library and the Library of the Health Sciences, April 15-May 31, 2010.

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