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Year in review: Gaps in brain nets might store memories

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6:17am, December 15, 2015
Brain cell nets

A HOLEY HYPOTHESIS  Scientists are giving new attention to the holes in nets (green in the three images above) that envelop nerve cells in the mouse brain.

Nets that stretch across nerve cells in the brain may store long-term memories, scientists proposed this year (SN: 11/14/15, p. 8). The new idea attempts to explain a great mystery — why some memories last a lifetime even though the molecules thought to store them are routinely destroyed and recreated.

In studies in mice, Sakina Palida of the University of California, San Diego and colleagues found that some components of tough, durable webs known as perineuronal nets can last up to 180 days. What’s more, these nets of proteins and carbohydrates blanket nerve cells across the brain, not just in select areas. New synapses — communication links between nerve cells — poke holes in the nets,

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