The memory storage molecule PKMzeta maintains long-term memories in the neocortex and its presence is continually required in order for the memory to endure, according to a finding by researchers at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, Israel and SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York.
The study results were published in the current edition of Science magazine (www.sciencemag.org). The title of the paper is Rapid Erasure of Long-Term Memory Associations in Cortex by an Inhibitor of PKMzeta."
It was previously determined that PKMzeta in the hippocampus an area of the brain involved in navigation and the initial storage of memory was necessary to preserve spatial memory; but little was known about PKMzeta activity in the neocortex, the part of the brain thought to be responsible for permanently storing most long-term memories, including those required for higher-level cognitive functions, such as language and complex thought.
This new finding that inhibiting PKMzeta causes the rapid loss of neocortical memories learned even weeks before means that persistent phosphorylation by PKMzeta in the neocortex is necessary to store these long-term memories and has potential clinical significance, for example, in the field of cognitive enhancement.