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Learning by Tension

[+] Author Affiliations
Shengyuan Yang, Scott Siechen, Jie Sun, Akira Chiba, Taher Saif

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL

Paper No. SBC2007-176719, pp. 65-66; 2 pages
  • ASME 2007 Summer Bioengineering Conference
  • ASME 2007 Summer Bioengineering Conference
  • Keystone, Colorado, USA, June 20–24, 2007
  • Conference Sponsors: Bioengineering Division
  • ISBN: 0-7918-4798-5
  • Copyright © 2007 by ASME


Memory and learning in animals is mediated by neurotransmission at the synaptic junctions (end point of axons). Neurotransmitters are carried by synaptic vesicles which cluster at the junctions, ready to be dispatched for transmission. The more a synapse is used, higher is the clustering, and higher is the neurotransmission efficiency (plasticity), i.e., the junction “remembers” its use in the near past, and modifies accordingly. This usage dependent plasticity offers the basic mechanism of memory and learning. A central dogma in neuroscience is that, clustering is the result of a complex biochemical signaling process. We show, using MEMS sensors and fruit fly (Drosophila) embryo nervous system, that mechanical tension in axons is essential for clustering. Without tension, clustering disappears, but reappears with application of tension. Nature maintains a rest tension of 1nN in axons of Drosophila for learning and memory.

Copyright © 2007 by ASME
Topics: Tension



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