UCLA Logo Post-traumatic stress disorder as well as other anxiety conditions and various memory-impairment diseases can now be tackled, thanks to the following discovery. In a major breakthrough, UCLA experts have discovered a unique drug target that appears beneficial for treating not only anxiety, but also memory disorders. The research findings apparently have great significance in the health zone.

Though not very common among invertebrates and mammals, gap junctions may be found on only some inhibitory interneurons. While conducting experiments on rats, scientists employed several drugs for halting the gap junctions. Critical rhythms were probably disrupted within the dorsal hippocampus. This brain region is believed to be involved in cognition and restriction of fear memory formation. When provided after a frightening experience, the utilized medication supposedly blocked the formation of fear about places.

“Because of this, no one has looked at the importance of these gap junctions for learning, memory and emotion. We hypothesized that these gap junctions may be very important. Because the gap junctions cause the inhibitory neurons to fire together, they may cause these inhibitory neurons to act as a pacemaker for the excitatory neurons, making them fire at the same time so they are better able to make fear memories,” commented, UCLA professor of psychology Michael Fanselow, lead investigator.

Neuronal gap junctions may form in the place where inhibitory neurons touch one another. Appearing like an opening between nerve cells, neuronal gap junctions probably separate the cells from one another. Researchers observed that the neurons were capable of coordinating their activity. This coordination seems to be vital for memory formation. It is predicted that boosting the function of gap junction can improve memory formation by facilitating gap junctions when memory is impaired in diseases like Alzheimer’s. It was concluded that gap junctions are the hallmark in coordinating the activity of neurons producing fear memories.

The research is published January 7 in the journal Science.