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Dublin: 12 °C Thursday 23 October, 2014

Gene discovery linked to why we stop feeling the clothes we wear once we’re dressed

Trinity College scientists work with fruit flies to make discovery about ‘habituation’ that could help with some neurological diseases.

FOR THE FIRST time two genes involved in many neurological diseases have been proven to act together to allow the development of a simple form of memory called habituation.

The discovery made by scientists in Trinity College Dublin found that the two genes regulate specific aspects of protein production in nerve cells. The findings have implications for our understanding of memory formation in general, and will also aid ongoing research in related diseases.

Regular activities

Habituation occurs when we are repeatedly exposed to a stimulus and our response is lessened over time as a result due to the regularity of it.

Two everyday examples include our ability to stop hearing ambient noise when concentrating on a particular task, and the fact that we stop feeling the clothes we are wearing once we are dressed.

Working with fruit flies, the scientists explored the fundamentals of memory and learning and investigated the molecular function of the two genes, called Atx2 and FMRP.

Fruit flies

The scientists, led by Professor of Neurogenetics at Trinity, Mani Ramaswami found that fruit flies that normally learned to ignore a familiar, unpleasant smell, failed to do so if they had defects in either gene.

The two genes are linked to Motor Neurone Disease, Spinocerebellar Ataxia type 2 and Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Professor Ramaswami said:

This work may provide a partial explanation not only for defects in memory consolidation that is associated with early-stage neurodegenerative disease, but also for defects in adaptive ability seen in autism spectrum disorders.

To read the full published study, click here.

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