“Whats the last thing that goes through a bug’s mind as it hits the windshield of your car?”
As discussed in an interesting but rather technical article by Mujumdar A, et al., in drosophila (fruit flies) normal Orb2 forms degradation-resistant amyloid-like oligomers at neuronal synapses (in other words, functional amyloid in the connection points between brain nerve cells). These oligomers are essential to the persistence of long-term memory, which in this paper was determined by measuring “courtship suppression memory.” It goes something like this: a male fruit fly, after repeatedly being told to “buzz-off” by an uninterested female fruit fly, eventually learns to stop pestering her and other uninterested females. Normally, this newly-acquired behavior persists for days before waning. Although its tempting to discuss how eerily similar this sounds to a couple of desperate years in middle school, lets focus instead on what happens in fruit flies with mutant Orb2: within 24 hrs, they are back at it, pestering uninterested female fruit flies. A failure of long-term memory.
In the near future, I’ll discuss another situation in which amyloid (amyloid-beta) plays a role in memory – in this case, the LOSS of memory – in people with Alzheimer’s Dementia.