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Discovery sheds new light on memory formation

Narrator:       This is Science Today. Synapses are the very specialized junctions that transmit and process information between neurons. Active synapses can become stronger, which is what happens when we form new memories. But this process can also overstimulate neurons and lead to epileptic seizures, so it needs to be kept in check by a process called homeostatic scaling.

Finkbeiner:   Which is just sort of a fancy name for the physiologic process that the cell undergoes to bring things back down, in fact, bring them back up, too.

Narrator:       Neuroscientist Steve Finkbeiner of the University of California, San Francisco-affiliated Gladstone Institutes, recently discovered that a protein called Arc regulates this homeostatic scaling process within the nucleus of the neuron.

Finkbeiner:   I've always thought the synapse was important, but what this really tells me is that these global mechanisms that neurons have working through the nucleus to control their excitability turn out to be really important for the ability of the circuits to store memories and to actually make them long-lasting.

Narrator:       For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.