Are our memories formed by an ancient virus?

Arc, a key protein in memory formation, looks and behaves like a retrovirus, moving RNA between cells in a virus-like capsid. Elissa Pastuzyn explains how this extraordinary protein ended up in our genome

The Biologist 65(3) p14-17

Understanding how memories are formed and stored is one of the great enigmas in neuroscience. After more than a century of research, detailed knowledge of the mechanisms of memory formation remain elusive.

In the past decade, memory research has been advanced by the study of neuronal engrams, or networks of neurons that are incorporated into a memory. In particular brain regions associated with memory, a neuronal engram is theorised to consist of a subset of neurons within that brain region that is uniquely activated by a behaviour that leads to memory formation.

Want to continue reading this article?
Please log in or join the Royal Society of Biology

We use cookies: to perform functions such as login and account management; and to track usage with Google analytics to improve our website. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our cookie policy.   I accept cookies from this site.