Narrator: This is Science Today. A protein called Arc, which is involved in long-term memory, turns out to have a greater role than scientists realized. Clinical neurologist Steve Finkbeiner of the University of California, San Francisco-affiliated Gladstone Institutes says they discovered that when brain cells are stimulated during learning, Arc not only accumulates at the synapse, it also transports to the nucleus.
Finkbeiner: And specifically what it does is it regulates the expression of a few key genes that we know are really important for determining the excitability of synapses.
Narrator: This excitability factor is what helps neurons strengthen synapses and it's been known that Arc is depleted in the memory center of the brains of Alzheimer's patients and disruptions in this protein may also be a key player in a genetic disorder that causes autism.
Finkbeiner: Understanding what proteins Arc interacts with and how it actually controls those processes could give us ways or ideas about how we might develop a drug to help.
Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.