By tinkering with yeast and sea slugs, scientists have found a surprising possible explanation for the way the human brain stores long-term memories. \nThese lowly creatures possess an unusual protein that exists in two shapes. In one shape, the protein is sluggish or inactive. In its second shape, the protein perpetuates itself indefinitely but can also harmlessly switch back to the inactive form. \nResearchers believe that in higher organisms the same protein may exploit this second shape to confer lasting stability to sites on brain cells, called synapses, that store the memories of a lifetime. \nSurprisingly, the shape-shifting protein in yeast and slugs has all the hallmarks of another protein, the infamous prion, found in humans and other animals. \nSuch prions also assume two shapes. One serves a normal function in the brain. The second sets into motion a runaway process that converts normal prions into a toxic form. As a result, deadly clumps of protein leave holes in the brain and cause disorders like mad cow disease. \nThe disease-causing prion and the memory-storage protein are not identical, said Eric Kandel, a neuroscientist at Columbia Uni-versity who shared the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his research on memory formation. But they share attributes that make prion-like behavior a perfect mechanism for storing memories. \nWith experience and learning, new synapses are formed and others are strengthened, Kandel said. Indeed, mechanisms determining short- and long-term memories are formed have largely been worked out. But questions of how long-term memories are actually stored and what keeps synapses from losing their connectivity under the onslaught of cellular remodeling are outstanding mysteries in biology.
RE-EDUCATION: The ambassador to Australia told reporters that he understood there ‘might be a process for the people in Taiwan to have a correct understanding of China’ China’s ambassador to Australia yesterday said that Beijing is prepared to use “all necessary means” to prevent Taiwan from being independent, saying there can be “no compromise” on its “one China” principle. Chinese Ambassador to Australia Xiao Qian (肖千) repeatedly told the National Press Club in Canberra that the US was to blame for the recent escalation in tensions, adding that China’s decision to launch ballistic missiles in live-fire exercises in response to US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan was “legitimate and justified.” Xiao said that after a “good start” with the new government of Australian Prime Minister
Newly married and with his first child on the way, auto worker Wang (王) wanted to move into the apartment he bought in Wuhan three years ago, but those hopes were dashed by China’s ballooning property crisis. Saddled with nearly US$300,000 in debt and with his unit nowhere near completion, the 34-year-old decided he had enough and stopped making mortgage payments. He is among numerous home buyers across dozens of cities in China who have boycotted payments over fears that their properties will not be completed by cash-strapped, debt-laden developers. “They said construction would resume soon,” Wang said, only giving his surname. “But
PROPAGANDA LEAFLETS: Seoul voiced ‘strong regret’ as Kim’s sister threatened to eradicate South Korean authorities for sending the virus across the border North Korean leader Kim Jong-un suffered from a “high fever” during a recent COVID-19 outbreak, his sister Kim Yo-jong said yesterday, as she vowed to “eradicate” South Korean authorities if they continued to tolerate propaganda leaflets the regime blames for spreading the virus. Kim Yo-jong blamed “South Korean puppets” for sending “dirty objects” across the border in leaflets carried by balloons, the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported. The revelation of her brother’s illness marked an unusual admission for a regime that rarely comments on the leader’s health — and then only to show that he shares the struggles of
A landmark sexual harassment case in China yesterday returned to court after an earlier ruling dealt a blow to the country’s fledgling #MeToo movement. Zhou Xiaoxuan (周曉璇) stepped forward in 2018 to accuse state TV host Zhu Jun (朱軍) of forcibly kissing and groping her during her 2014 internship at the broadcaster. While the case of Zhou, now 29, inspired many others to share their experiences of sexual assault publicly and sparked a social media storm, a court ruled last year there was insufficient evidence to back her allegation. Zhou appealed, and returned to court for another hearing yesterday in Beijing. “I still feel