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Flipping a light switch recovers memories lost to Alzheimer’s disease mice

Light stimulation of brain cells can recover memories in mice with Alzheimer’s disease-like memory loss, according to new research from the RIKEN-MIT Center for Neural Circuit Genetics. The rescue of memories, which changed both the structure of neurons as well as the behavior of mice, was achieved using optogenetics, a method for manipulating genetically tagged cells with precise bursts of light. This finding suggests that impaired retrieval of memories, rather than poor storage or encoding, may underlie this prominent symptom of early Alzheimer’s disease and points to the synaptic connectivity between memory cells as being crucial for retrieval.

Engram Cells in 9-Month-Old AD Mouse with Plaques
This image represents a coronal section of hippocampal dentate gyrus (DG) from a mouse model of early Alzheimer’s disease. These AD mice exhibit severe ?-amyloid plaques (red) in the DG at 9-months of age. Using these mice combined with a novel viral strategy, memory engram cells (green) for a contextual fear memory were labeled.
Credit: RIKEN