Student Seminar: Matt Dukes: “A Proposal for The Molecular Basis of Memory”

Graduate student Matt Dukes will present “A Proposal for The Molecular Basis of Memory” to the department.


Despite over a century’s worth of extensive thought and experimentation, the molecular basis of biologic memory remains elusive. Recent efforts in neuroscience have attempted to explain this phenomenon in terms of a “synaptic plasticity” model, but this model fails to account for the energetic requirements, kinetics, and breadth of information encoding/decoding involved in cognition. By drawing an analogy to a computer ionic memory chip, the authors have proposed a tripartite biochemical mechanism to describe the processing of cognitive information. This model is comprised of three main components: the neuron, the surrounding neural extracellular matrix (nECM), and various trace metals (or dopants) distributed within the matrix. The authors propose that the neuron is attuned to consequences of complexation events of an extracellular moiety to a metal (formation of a cognitive unit of information, or cuinfo), such as changes in the dielectric properties, viscoelasticity, and stability of local, molecular ensembles. The supportive evidence provided for this model correlates memory loss to a deficiency or toxicity of different trace metals, loss of the means to deliver/transport metals to the matrix, or degradation of the matrix. Additionally, strengths and weaknesses of the proposed model will be discussed.


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Marx and Gilon (2013). ACS Chem. Neurosci. 4, 983-993.

Marx and Gilon (2014). Frontiers in aging neuroscience, 6, 1-8.