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J Neurosci Res. 2001 Jan 1;63(1):72-81.

DNA recombination as a possible mechanism in declarative memory: a hypothesis.

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Department of Biology, University of Puerto Rico Rio Piedras Campus, San Juan, Puerto Rico.


The durability of declarative memory suggests that it has either a chemical or a structural basis. Current models of long-term memory are based on the general assumption that traces of memory are stored by structural modifications of synaptic connections, resulting in alterations in the patterns of neural activity. Changes in gene expression, regulated at both the transcriptional and the translational levels, are considered essential for structural synaptic modifications. Here we present an alternative hypothesis stating that permanent memory has a chemical rather than a structural basis. We suggest that the mechanism of memory coding in the brain is similar to that in the immune system so that the permanence of memories in the nervous system is ensured at the genomic level by a somatic recombination mechanism. Thus, we hypothesize that traces of permanent declarative memory might present within cerebral neurons in the form of novel proteins coded by the modified genes. This discussion is intended to provide evidence in support of a DNA recombination mechanism for memory storage in the brain and to stimulate further research working toward the evaluation of this hypothesis.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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