Skip to content

Researchers show astrocytes are crucial for establishing long-term memory in mice.

Like a myriad of stars interacting with the expanse of space, the brain contains billions of interlaced and communicating neurons supported by the brain’s immune cells, known as glia. The most numerous of these are astrocytes known to perform a variety of tasks, such as axon guidance, synaptic support, and homeostasis, with more new roles being discovered every year. Astrocytes have been hypothesized as contributing to memory consolidation and memory performance, however, the roles played by astrocytes in memory are not fully understood. Now, a study from researchers at Salk Institute shows astrocytes help the brain establish long-lasting memories in mice. The team states their data suggests astrocytes play an important role in how information is transmitted and stored in the brain. The study is published in the journal Glia.

Previous studies show understanding the role of astrocytes in cognitive processes may advance the understanding of how these processes go awry in pathological conditions. Recent studies from the group showed disabling the release of gliotransmitters in astrocytes turned down a type of electrical rhythm known as a gamma oscillation, important for cognitive skills. When the researchers tested the learning and memory skills of mice with disabled astrocytes, they identified deficits in their ability to discriminate new from familiar objects, and surroundings. The current study investigates the long-term memory of mice with disrupted astrocytes.

The current study utilizes genetically engineered animals lacking a receptor called IP3R2, which astrocytes rely on to release calcium for communication. The mice were tested with three different types of learning and memory challenges. Results show mice lacking IP3R2 showed the same ability to learn as normal mice. Data findings show when tested in the 24-48 hours after each initial learning process, the mice with disrupted astrocytes could still retain the information.

After 2 to 4 weeks, the trained mice were retested; results show the mice missing the receptor performed much worse, making more than twice as many errors when completing the maze. Data findings, after a few weeks of delay, show normal mice actually performed better than they did right after training because their brain had gone through a process of memory consolidation, however, the mice lacking the IP3R2 receptor performed much worse.

The team surmises they have shown for the first time defects in astrocytes are linked to defects in memory consolidation or remote memory. For the future, the researchers state they are planning studies to map the pathways astrocytes use to affect the long-term memory.

Source: Salk Institute


Get Healthinnovations delivered to your inbox:


Healthinnovations View All

Michelle Petersen is the founder of Healthinnovations, having worked in the health and science industry for over 21 years, which includes tenure within the NHS and Oxford University. Healthinnovations is a publication that has reported on, influenced, and researched current and future innovations in health for the past decade.

Michelle has been picked up as an expert writer for Informa publisher’s Clinical Trials community, as well as being listed as a blog source by the world’s leading medical journals, including the acclaimed Nature-Springer journal series.

Healthinnovations is currently indexed by the trusted Altmetric and PlumX metrics systems, respectively, as a blog source for published research globally. Healthinnovations is also featured in the world-renowned BioPortfolio,, the life science, pharmaceutical and healthcare portal.

Most recently the Texas A&M University covered The Top 10 Healthinnovations series on their site with distinguished Professor Stephen Maren calling the inclusion of himself and his team on the list a reflection of “the hard work and dedication of my students and trainees”.

Michelle Petersen’s copy was used in the highly successful marketing campaign for the mega-hit film ‘Jumanji: The Next Level, starring Jack Black, Karen Gilian, Kevin Hart and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. Michelle Petersen’s copywriting was part of the film’s coverage by the Republic TV network. Republic TV is the most-watched English language TV channel in India since its inception in 2017.

An avid campaigner in the fight against child sex abuse and trafficking, Michelle is a passionate humanist striving for a better quality of life for all humans by helping to provide traction for new technologies and techniques within healthcare.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.