Researchers have identified a protein necessary to maintain behavioral flexibility, which allows us to modify our behaviors to adjust to circumstances that are similar, but not identical, to previous experiences. Their findings, which appear in the journal Cell Reports, may offer new insights into addressing autism and schizophrenia—afflictions marked by impaired behavioral flexibility.
Our stored memories from previous experiences allow us to repeat certain tasks. For instance, after driving to a particular location, we recall the route the next time we make that trip. However, sometimes circumstances change—one road on the route is temporarily closed—and we need to make adjustments to reach our destination. Our behavioral flexibility allows us to make such changes and, then, successfully complete our task. It is driven, in part, by protein synthesis, which produces experience-dependent changes in neural function and behavior.