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Hum Mol Genet. 2005 Aug 1;14(15):2241-6. Epub 2005 Jun 29.

The prion gene is associated with human long-term memory.

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  • 1Division of Psychiatry Research, University of Zurich, 8032 Zurich, Switzerland.


Human cognitive processes are highly variable across individuals and are influenced by both genetic and environmental factors. Although genetic variations affect short-term memory in humans, it is unknown whether genetic variability has also an impact on long-term memory. Because prion-like conformational changes may be involved in the induction of long-lasting synaptic plasticity, we examined the impact of single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) of the prion protein gene (PRNP) on long-term memory in healthy young humans. SNPs in the genomic region of PRNP were associated with better long-term memory performance in two independent populations with different educational background. Among the examined PRNP SNPs, the common Met129Val polymorphism yielded the highest effect size. Twenty-four hours after a word list-learning task, carriers of either the 129MM or the 129MV genotype recalled 17% more information than 129VV carriers, but short-term memory was unaffected. These results suggest a role for the prion protein in the formation of long-term memory in humans.

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