A defining feature of the human memory system is our ability to remember episodes from our lives. One component of this system, the hippocampus, forms cognitive maps of familiar places to allow us to know where we are.
In recent years it has been shown that the medial entorhinal cortex (MEC), which provides a major input to the hippocampus, processes spatial information that could support this cognitive map. Prof Matthew Nolan (Edinburgh) has developed molecular tools that have allowed a very specific understanding of how different populations of cells within MEC interact to process spatial information. However, to remember episodes we need to know what happened to us as well as where we were.
Dr James Ainge (St Andrews) has recently demonstrated that the other major input to the hippocampus from lateral entorhinal cortex (LEC) is important for binding together the information about what happened during an episode to where the episode took place. There are currently no tools available to study the contributions of particular cell populations in the LEC to memory processes. We therefore propose to apply molecular tools developed by Prof Nolan to the investigation of the roles of specific LEC cell populations in episodic memory using behavioural assays established by Dr Ainge. Understanding episodic memory is important because its loss, in Alzheimer’s disease (AD), has major societal and financial implications. Because the LEC has a very early role in AD the results of the study may lead to new tools and strategies for testing therapies to prevent AD.