Confirming what teachers and educators have professed for years, that the best method for learning involves spacing-out study periods rather than attempting to cram, a study published online this week in Nature Neuroscience suggests that moreover, the proper timing may be a bit more complex than previously assumed. By showing that it is possible to design training conditions that take into account the timing of known molecular events, this study provides a framework from which future studies may be designed to examine whether it is possible to improve learning and memory in higher organisms. Certain enzymes in neurons increase their activity in response to learning. However, the time course with which each of these enzymes becomes activated is very different. John Byrne and colleagues used a mathematical modeling approach to design a method of learning which accounts for the precise timing of these events so that the activation of these enzymes may be maximized during training and learning periods. The authors also show that their specifically-designed training schedule can maximize one form of memory in the sea slug, Aplysia californica.
Zoology: Mineral armour discovered in insectsNature Communications
Neuroscience: Social isolation evokes craving responses in the human brainNature Neuroscience
Ecology: Migration associated with faster pace of lifeNature Communications
Gene therapy: Concerns for the long-term safety of AAV gene therapyNature Biotechnology