Understanding how memory works

New research at Flinders University is seeking to understand how memory works – and how it is lost – in the hope of making new discoveries into dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr Arne Ittner and his team recently arrived at Flinders, establishing a laboratory for molecular dementia and memory research, and Flinders Foundation has committed to four years of funding to help bring this additional research strength to Adelaide.

Dr Ittner and his research colleagues have also received two grants to grow their research focusing on how certain molecules contribute to memory. They hope to define how memory is lost and, in turn, interfere in that process. 

Dr Ittner’s research grants have been generously funded by Flinders Foundation thanks to a grant from the McCusker Foundation along with an individual supporter with an interest in dementia research, who has closely followed the research team’s work over a number of years.

“Our team is taking a unique approach to it in the hope that we can solve part of the puzzle of memory function in the brain,” Dr Ittner explains.

“When we look at other diseases, like cancer for example, there have been advancements in treatment because you can quantify cancer cells.

“But when it comes to dementia, how do you count memory? That’s a real challenge.”

"The difficult part with memory is that we don’t understand how molecules build memory – it’s a complex process."

Dr Ittner said his team’s aim was to contribute to an effective diagnosis and treatment for dementia, including the most common form – Alzheimer’s disease.

“There are experiments from 60 years ago that laid the foundations of how memory might work in the brain – but all these years later we still haven’t worked out the details,” he says.

“We want to find a therapy that improves the lives of patients and also their families, because a big burden of dementia is on families and carers – it’s not easy on them.”


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