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Brain Cells Change As We Learn?

Last updated July 4, 2015

Approved by: Krish Tangella MD, MBA, FCAP

Published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, the study shows evidence how learning stimulates brain cells by causing a small fatty acid to attach to a protein in the brain, delta-catenin.


If you haven’t done so already, here is another reason to open a new book. A new study from the University of British Columbia found a molecular change in the brain responsible for cell connectivity associated with learning.

Published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, the study shows evidence how learning stimulates brain cells by causing a small fatty acid to attach to a protein in the brain, delta-catenin.

Animal models have found twice the amount of modified delta –catenin in the brain after learning about new environments. Though delta-catenin has shown to be linked to learning in previous studies, this study reveals the protein’s role in memory formation.

"More work is needed, but this discovery gives us a much better understanding of the tools our brains use to learn and remember, and provides insight into how these processes become disrupted in neurological diseases," says co-author Shernaz Bamji, an associate professor in UBC's Life Sciences Institute.

The researchers believe the findings from this research may provide explanations for some mental disabilities. Individuals born without the delta-catenin gene have a severe form of mental retardation called Cri-du-chat syndrome. Interference of the delta-catenin gene has also been observed in some patients who may suffer from other forms of mental illness, such as Alzheimer’s and Huntington disease. 

Additional Resource:

Palmitoylation of δ-catenin by DHHC5 mediates activity-induced synapse plasticity

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: March 2, 2014
Last updated: July 4, 2015