A new theory for how memories are stored in the brain
Research from the University of Kent has led to the development of the MeshCODE theory, a revolutionary new theory for understanding brain and memory function. This discovery may be the beginning of a new understanding of brain function and in treating brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
In a paper published by Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience, Dr Ben Goult from Kent’s School of Biosciences describes how his new theory views the brain as an organic supercomputer running a complex binary code with neuronal cells working as a mechanical computer. He explains how a vast network of information-storing memory molecules operating as switches is built into each and every synapse of the brain, representing a complex binary code. This identifies a physical location for data storage in the brain and suggests memories are written in the shape of molecules in the synaptic scaffolds.
The theory is based on the discovery of protein molecules, known as talin, containing “switch-like” domains that change shape in response to pressures in mechanical force by the cell. These switches have two stable states, 0 and 1, and this pattern of binary information stored in each molecule is dependent on previous input, similar to the Save History function in a computer. The information stored in this binary format can be updated by small changes in force generated by the cell’s cytoskeleton.
In the brain, electrochemical signalling between trillions of neurones occurs between synapses, each of which contains a scaffold of the talin molecules. Once assumed to be structural, this research suggests that the meshwork of talin proteins actually represent an array of binary switches with the potential to store information and encode memory.
This mechanical coding would run continuously in every neuron and extend into all cells, ultimately amounting to a machine code coordinating the entire organism. From birth, the life experiences and environmental conditions of an animal could be written into this code, creating a constantly updated, mathematical representation of its unique life.
Dr Goult, a reader in biochemistry, said: ‘This research shows that in many ways the brain resembles the early mechanical computers of Charles Babbage and his Analytical Engine. Here, the cytoskeleton serves as the levers and gears that coordinate the computation in the cell in response to chemical and electrical signalling. Like those early computation models, this discovery may be the beginning of a new understanding of brain function and in treating brain diseases.’
“The Mechanical Basis of Memory – The MeshCODE theory” is published in Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience (Dr Ben Goult, School of Biosciences, University of Kent).
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Notes to Editors
The University of Kent is a leading UK university producing world-class research, rated internationally excellent and leading the way in many fields of study. Our 20,000 students are based at campuses and centres in Canterbury, Medway, Brussels and Paris.
With 97% of our research judged to be of international quality in the most recent Research Assessment Framework (REF2014), our students study with some of the most influential thinkers in the world. Universities UK recently named research from the University as one of the UK’s 100 Best Breakthroughs of the last century for its significant impact on people’s everyday lives.
We are renowned for our inspirational teaching. Awarded a gold rating, the highest, in the UK Government’s Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), we were presented with the Outstanding Support for Students award at the 2018 Times Higher Education (THE) Awards for the second year running.
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We are a major economic force in south east England, supporting innovation and enterprise. We are worth £0.9 billion to the economy of the south east and support more than 9,400 jobs in the region.
In March 2018, the Government and Health Education England (HEE) announced that the joint bid by the University of Kent and Canterbury Christ Church University for funded places to establish a medical school has been successful. The first intake of undergraduates to the Kent and Medway Medical School will be in September 2020.
We are proud to be part of Canterbury, Medway and the county of Kent and, through collaboration with partners, work to ensure our global ambitions have a positive impact on the region’s academic, cultural, social and economic landscape.
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