Are memories stored in DNA?

The idea that long-term memory might be stored in our brain’s DNA is being tested by Professor Geoff Faulkner, using brains affected by Alzheimer’s.

Geoff has already shown that the DNA in our brains is different to the DNA in the rest of our bodies and that it changes as we learn. He’s proposing that these changes are associated with how we store our long-term memories.

More recently, he’s linked these differences to the function of genes in the hippocampus, the part of the brain that controls memory and spatial navigation, and has been implicated in memory loss with ageing, schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease.

With his colleagues at the University of Queensland, Geoff is going to examine brain tissue donated by Alzheimer’s patients to determine if DNA is involved in memory formation, and what the implications of this might be for people living with Alzheimer’s.

His research is moving us closer to an understanding of life’s blueprint and how we manage diseases like schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s.

Longer term, he’s interested in answering the basic questions of how changes to DNA during life affect how the brain functions, and whether we need the changes in the DNA in the brain for the brain to work.

Geoff received one of the inaugural CSL Centenary Fellowships and will undertake this work at the Mater Research Institute-University of Queensland (MRI-UQ) and the Queensland Brain Institute (QBI).

Geoff wants to know how changes to DNA during life affects how the brain functions. Credit: Mater Research Institute-University of Queensland (MRI-UQ)