Genetically Forgetful

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If you have trouble remembering which day you went to the beach last week or whether you mailed your bills on Friday or Saturday, you may have your genes to thank.

A variation in a protein that influences the growth and maintenance of neurons has been linked to an impaired ability to remember one's experiences. The variation affects the hippocampus, a region of the brain critical to memory. More than one third of people inherit one copy of the variation from a parent.

The degree to which memory is affected depends on whether one inherits a copy of the variation from one or both parents, says Daniel Weinberger, M.D., lead researcher in the study published in the journal Cell. If both parents pass on a copy of the variation, their child's memory will be worse than that of a child who inherited one or no copies.

Researchers believe the variation might increase susceptibility to other conditions, such as Alzheimer's disease or mood disorders. However, they also suggest the variation may exist because it provides an undiscovered benefit.

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