• Question: Hello Paige, thanks for your wonderful answer. My next question is: How can genes in mice's body relate to memory problems?

    Asked by harshita to Paige on 13 Mar 2020.
    • Photo: Paige Chandler

      Paige Chandler answered on 13 Mar 2020:

      Hi Harshita! No worries, I’m glad to answer any questions you have.

      This is a great question, with a complex answer. Who are are as sentient animals (both humans and mice) is determined by a complicated mix of our genes, and the environment we live and grew up in.

      As you can imagine, that means it can be difficult to determine what would cause a memory problem in a human. We have to figure out what could be genetic (caused by genes) or caused their environment (childhood abuse, use of drugs and alcohol, etc).

      However with our mice, they all have exactly the same environment, because in the lab we can control for that. They all grow up in exactly the same type of cage, are given the same food, and are handled by the same animal technicians. That means any behavioural difference we see in mice, would very likely be due to genetic differences.

      Since genes code for everything in our body, including the cells in our brains (neurons), some genetic changes can lead to changes in the structure and function of the neurons. I have some ‘normal’ mice with no genetic changes, and some mice with a mutation. If my mutated mice have a memory problem (which they do!) this means that the mutation in the mice has caused a structural change in the neurons. From that, we deduce that the gene we mutated, has an important role in how neurons are structured!

      I hope this makes sense, don’t hesitate to ask me for more explanation 🙂