New research from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), studying how memories are stored, finds that lost memories can be recovered—offering possible hope for patients suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
The finding contradicts the long-held belief that memories are stored at the connections between neurons, or synapses—areas that are destroyed by Alzheimer’s disease.
“Long-term memory is not stored at the synapse,” said lead author David Glanzman, a UCLA professor of integrative biology and physiology and of neurobiology, in a statement. “That’s a radical idea, but that’s where the evidence leads.”
According to Glanzman, the nervous system can regenerate lost or broken synaptic connections. If synaptic connections can be restored, memory will return. “It won’t be easy, but I believe it’s possible,” he said.
The findings recently were published in the open-access journal eLife.
Glanzman said the finding that the destruction of synapses does not result in the destruction of memories could have important implications for people with Alzheimer’s disease.
“As long as the neurons are alive, the memory will still be there, which means you may be able to recover some of the lost memories in the early stages of Alzheimer’s,” Glanzman said.