The function of an enzyme in the brain – strongly linked to a number of major brain diseases such as Alzheimer's, schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder – has been identified for the first time by researchers at the University of Bristol, UK.

These findings, published today in Neuron, will help in the understanding of how memories are laid down and what goes wrong in these disorders.

The research showed how controlling the activity of glycogen synthase kinase-3 (GSK3) might prevent a memory being erased by improving the strength of connections between neurons in the brain, thus allowing better consolidation of new information.

Professor Collingridge from the University of Bristol said: "While GSK3 has previously been implicated in major neurological disorders, until now its role in normal neuronal function has been largely unknown. Our new understanding will help pharmaceutical companies develop drugs to inhibit it when things go wrong."

Professor Graham Collingridge and his team, with colleagues from the University of British Columbia, revealed that the activity of GSK3 facilitates a form of 'cross-talk' between the two major forms of synaptic plasticity in the brain.

Synaptic plasticity is the strength of a connection between neurons and forms the basis of learning and memory.

Written from a news release by University of Bristol.