The molecular mechanisms of memory persistence: imaging how single synapses learn in real time
Miquel Bosch Pita, Nanoprobes and nanoswitches group, IBEC
Memories are stored in our brain through the ability of synaptic connections to modify their structure and function in a long-lasting way. However, nobody has ever observed how these changes occur in a single synapse in real time.
I will explain how we used a new combination of optical technologies to reveal the molecular remodeling that takes place inside a synapse during the creation of a memory. We used two-photon microscopy to stimulate individual synapses and to visualize protein trafficking in real time. We identified a unique protein that is rapidly and persistently captured in potentiated synapses, forming a new macromolecule that could serve as a memory tag. We developed a novel photo-marking technique that allowed us to localize the same synapses under both two-photon and electron microscopies. This way we observed how different synaptic structures evolve asynchronously in three temporal phases during synaptic potentiation.