Systems Biology of Forgetting
(Yves Widmer, Tobias Weichselgartner)
“Without forgetting it is quite impossible to live at all.” (F.Nietsche)
In addition of the significance of learning and remembering certain things, it is also important to forget associations in a constantly changing environment. Our research addresses the underlying network and molecular events of forgetting using the fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) as a model organism.
Olfactory classical conditioning is widely used to study memory ability in fruit flies. In this assay, fruit flies are sequentially exposed to two odorants. One of this odorant, but not the other, is paired with electric shock. In a test situation after the learning, in which the flies can chose between the two odorants, fruit flies are smart enough to avoid the punished one. Depending on the training protocol distinct forms of memory can be studied, including short-term and long-term memory.
While the neuronal, cellular and genetic bases of learning have been extensively studied in Drosophila only very little is known of the cellular and molecular mechanisms that erase unwanted or unused memories. Therefore we are focusing on the behavioral, structural and genetic level to investigate forgetting.