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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. papas@bli.unizh.ch


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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