The Role Of Calcium In Learning And Memory

The importance of calcium on processes such as learning and memory is not well-known as its effects on our bones and teeth. Thanks to the new study from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), which sheds more light on how calcium in mitochondria (the powerhouse of all cells) can affect the development of the brain as well as adult cognition.

Ron Davis,  chair of the TSRI’s Department of Neuroscience, explained the impact the blockage of “mitochondrial calcium uniporter” had – a channel that brings calcium to the mitochondria: it causes memory impairment but does not alter learning capacity.

When we knocked down the activity of the uniporter, we found that flies (fruit flies) have a deficit memory.

Intact uniporter function is necessary for full and complete memory in the adult fly. What surprised us is that they were still able to learn–albeit with a fleeting memory. But we thought they wouldn’t be able to learn at all.

Ilaria Drago, TSRI Research Associate, also the study’s first author, said:

The new study’s conclusion is that mitochondrial calcium entry during development is necessary to establish the neuronal competency for supporting adult memory.

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Calcium ions, being regulated by proteins known as MICU1, MICU2 and EMRE, are allowed to move from cell’s interior into mitochondria, via mitochondrial calcium uniporter protein. Davis however noted that learning disability is believed to occur in human patients, if mutations occur in MICU1.

“The discovery of a developmental role for the mitochondrial calcium uniporter complex in regulating memory in adult flies is especially intriguing and deserves more exploration,” added Davis.

Ilaria Drago, Ronald L. Davis: Inhibiting the Mitochondrial Calcium Uniporter during Development Impairs Memory in Adult Drosophila - Published in the journal Cell Reports.

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