Molecular Mechanisms of Memory

by The Kavli Foundation

The Molecular Basis of Cognition, 2023 Scialog Collaborative Innovation Awards

Neurons with their synapses labeled, courtesy of Yao Chen

The Author

The Kavli Foundation

Short for “science + dialogue,” Scialog was created by the Research Corporation for Scientific Advancement (RCSA) in 2010 to accelerate breakthroughs by stimulating intensive interdisciplinary conversation and community-building around a scientific theme of global importance.

In October of 2023, scientists gathered in Tucson, Arizona for a series of discussions about new ways to probe the chemistry, biology, physics and computation questions that underlie memory and other cognitive processes. The discussions were guided by an expert group of facilitators that included Marina Picciotto, deputy director of Yale’s Kavli Institute for Neuroscience and Jacqueline Gottlieb, a member of Columbia's Kavli Institute for Brain Science. One outcome of the conference is the opportunity to receive funding to pursue high-risk, high-impact projects.

Yao Chen and and Michael Economo

The Kavli Foundation will support a potentially transformative project, “Illuminating the Molecular Mechanisms of Memory Formation During Behavior,” that aligns with one of its core program areas in neuroscience, Observe and Measure the Mind. Scialog attendees Yao Chen, a neuroscientist at Washington University in Saint Louis, and Michael Economo, a biomedical engineer at Boston University, will receive a Scialog Collaborative Innovation Award. They join a cohort of 17 researchers representing seven projects.

Chen and Economo will investigate the molecular pathways through which synapses are altered in the brain as animals learn, employing advanced optical techniques for observing and manipulating electrical and biochemical processes in vivo to observe when and how neural circuitry is remodeled when animals learn. The ability to observe this phenomenon as it unfolds while animals learn will be transformational to the understanding of learning and memory.

“We are excited to continue our support of interdisciplinary research at the frontiers of neuroscience,” said Stephanie Albin, science program officer at The Kavli Foundation. “It’s an honor to partner with RCSA, the Frederick Gardner Cottrell Foundation, the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) and the Azrieli Foundation to empower early-career scientists to pursue innovative research investigating the molecular basis of cognition.”