Maintaining long-term memories requires environmental light, according to research in fruit flies recently published in JNeurosci.
Memories begin in a temporary form, which are converted into long term memories as protein expression and brain circuits change. But, long term memories require active maintenance in order to survive the changing molecular landscape of the brain. Previous research indicates exposure to different colors of light alters memory function in humans and animals, but the role of natural lighting conditions in memory maintenance remains unknown.
Inami et al. explored this question by testing the ability of male fruit flies to learn that their proposal is not accepted by females through their courtship toward unreceptive females. After the learning period, the male fruit flies were either exposed to constant darkness, constant light, or a 12-hour light/dark cycle. The flies experiencing a light/dark cycle recognized the ready-to-mate females for five days, whereas flies in constant darkness couldn't maintain the memory. The researchers found environmental light exposure activates light-sensitive neurons, triggering the production of memory maintenance proteins. Darkness during the learning period did not affect memory formation, indicating that light is required for the maintenance, but not creation, of long-term memories.
Manuscript title: Environmental Light is Required for Maintenance of Long-Term Memory in Drosophila
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JNeurosci, the Society for Neuroscience's first journal, was launched in 1981 as a means to communicate the findings of the highest quality neuroscience research to the growing field. Today, the journal remains committed to publishing cutting-edge neuroscience that will have an immediate and lasting scientific impact, while responding to authors' changing publishing needs, representing breadth of the field and diversity in authorship.
About The Society for Neuroscience
The Society for Neuroscience is the world's largest organization of scientists and physicians devoted to understanding the brain and nervous system. The nonprofit organization, founded in 1969, now has nearly 37,000 members in more than 90 countries and over 130 chapters worldwide.