The molecular traces of memory


Antonino Cattaneo has been recently awarded a €650000 grant by the Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research, within the framework of the PRIN (Relevant National Interest Projects) 2017 call.

The funded project, “Synaptic engrams in memory formation and recall”, aims to understand how the brain is able to form a physical trace – technically defined as an “engram” – that allows the acquisition and storage of the information constituting the building blocks of episodic memories. This category includes, for instance, the events and places of our lives.

The experiments planned in the three-year project are based on the molecular system “SynActive”, recently developed by the group of Prof. Cattaneo, and published in 2017 on Nature Communications. SynActive allows the visualization, isolation and manipulation of the synapses involved in learning and memory processes, thus providing the scientific community with a fundamental tool to understand how synaptic plasticity phenomena can affect neuronal activity, ultimately resulting in the adaptation of behavior in response to past experience. Synaptic engrams will be studied in both physiological and pathological models.

To achieve this aim, the research team will adopt an integrated approach, ranging from molecular and cellular biology to proteomics, neurophysiology and behavior. Successful achievement of the experimental goals of the project relies on the collaboration between the Universities of Rome – “La Sapienza”, Ferrara, Trento, Trieste and the National Research Council, coordinated by Bio@SNS, the Biology Laboratory of Scuola Normale Superiore.