Monday, July 16, 2012

Rebel Scientist Gary Lynch's Quest for Memory

Thanks to a two-day weekend (somewhat scarce for me), I manged to finish Joseph Ledoux's The Synaptic Self, and also start and finish Terry McDermott's 101 Theory Drive A Neuroscientist's Quest for Memory. I'm feeling pretty darn smart right now.

McDermott's book about neuroscientist's Gary Lynch's decades long research into Long-Term Poteniation. LTP is the strengthening of connections between brain cells that occures when they communicate, making subsequent communication more likely. The book gives the reader an keen appreciation on just how arduous and uncertain biological lab research is. It seems the brain's placiticity allows the growth of new "spines" on the dendrites of neurons, and these changes may be behind how memories are made and stored and even how thought is manufactured.

Lynch's quest is to find the actual structual changes in the celluar circuits that encode memory. Along the way he discovers ampakine, a class of drugs designed to enhance communication between brain cells. If they work as envisioned, the drugs, still in development, would enhance almost all cognitive activities. They may be a new drug to treat memory loss and perhaps even mood disorders.

101 Theory Drive: A Neuroscientist's Quest for Memory by Terry McDermott 

It's not fiction: Gary Lynch is the real thing, the epitome of the rebel scientist -- malnourished, contentious, inspiring, explosive, remarkably ambitious, consistently brilliant. He is one of the foremost figures of contemporary neuroscience, and his decades-long quest to understand the inner workings of the brain's memory machine has begun to pay off.Award-winning journalist Terry McDermott spent nearly two years observing Lynch at work and now gives us a fascinating and dramatic account of daily life in Lynch's lab-the highs and lows, the drudgery and eureka moments, the agonizing failures. He provides detailed, lucid explanations of the cutting-edge science that enabled Lynch to reveal the inner workings of the molecular machine that manufactures memory. And he explains where Lynch's sights are now set: on drugs that could fix that machine when it breaks, drugs that would enhance brain function during the memory process and that hold out the possibility of cures for a wide range of neurological conditions, including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Here is an essential story of science, scientists, and scientific achievement-galvanizing in the telling and thrilling in its far-reaching implications.
Dr. Gary Lynch is one of the most cited neuroscientists in the world and author of more than 550 scientific articles. He is Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California at Irvine. He is the co-author of Big Brain: The Origins and Future of Human Intelligence.

1 comment:

  1. Most interesting review. I've found I know one and met another who worked in Lynch's lab until the turn of the century. Must ask them for stories.