2 Minutes with Matt Florczynski
August 28, 2012
Among the many mysteries of the human brain is how it stores and retrieves memories of past events, some of which happened decades ago. Unravelling this riddle is one of the central goals of neuroscience and the focus of University of Toronto graduate student Matthew Florczynski's research. The results could have long-term implications for treating a range of neurological diseases and injuries.
In general, we're working in memory research and we're looking at memory at a very basic level in the brain so not even the level of the structures in the brain but actually the level of individual cells which are called neurons in the brain. And we're looking at the genes and the chemical signals that relate to memory.
Basically, we're trying to learn everything that happens when a memory is formed in the brain, how these memories are stored again at the basic level of neurons and what kinds of things contribute to problems with memory such as those that might occur in the elderly population or that might occur in cognitive illnesses.
So we've learned a great deal about specific proteins that are involved in memory. One protein which is called CREB which Sheena Josselyn identified as having a huge role in actually storing memories has been shown in our lab to actually improve the capacity for storing memory in mice. So, for example, in the story with CREB, you enhance the amount of this protein called CREB in a specific part of the brain prior to any part of the experiment and then you train the mouse to learn an association between some sort of queue in the environment and some sort of thing that takes place in that environment. Later, you place the mouse in that environment and you see if it reacts to the queue, so if it remembers.
What I was really interested in was how physiology and genetics and these things at the very basic level, how they can influence the behaviour of humans and how that can shape how the mind works and how that's affected in diseases.
I definitely want research to be part of my career. It's something that's really awesome when you're all finished with a project and you've had you've had some sort of positive finding, you've done all the tests and you can say with certainty, you know, this is – this gene really does seem to be important in this process and you can finally draw that conclusion and it hasn't been done before.