A protein called MyoVb may aid learning and memory by helping to strengthen connections between neurons.
Memories are thought to form through a process of 'long-term potentiation', which improves communication between neurons that fire simultaneously. This requires the transport of molecules to small spines sticking out of neurons. The spines receive electrical signals from other neurons.
Michael Ehlers of Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, and his colleagues have discovered that MyoVb moves the vesicles that transport molecules down spines during long-term potentiation. Eliminating MyoVb levels blocked spine growth. It also stopped a type of receptor that is important for rapid communication between neurons being inserted into the spines' membranes. Chemically blocking MyoVb halted long-term potentiation in mouse brain slices.