Narrator: This is Science Today. There are many different tools researchers can use to study a brain neuron to get an idea of what's going on within the system. At the University of California , San Francisco , Pamela England, an assistant professor of pharmaceutical chemistry, used a novel combination of pharmacology and the use of light.
England : These receptors are operating on the millisecond timescale. Synaptic transmission or the communication between neurons in your brain is incredibly fast and so what you want is a technique that operates on that same timescale.
Narrator: England used brief pulses of ultraviolet light to inactivate receptors on certain parts of the cell to see how the brain refreshes the supply of molecules it needs to make new memories.
England : Our study involved looking at AMPA receptors on hippocampal neurons because the hippocampus is a memory center in the brain. And the next step is going to involve using molecules that are selective for one type or the other to figure out which type of AMPA receptor should we care about in terms of memory.
Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.