We spoke to Karl-Peter Giese, Neuroscience Faculty Member, at SfN, and here, he explains what he’s currently working on. His lab studies the mechanisms underlying hippocampus- and amygdala-dependent memory processes, with the long-term aim of developing treatments for memory dysfunction in psychiatric illnesses. Memory processes, including memory formation, storage, retrieval, and extinction, are fundamental for brain function. In certain disease conditions such as autism, learning and memory is impaired as a result of faulty synaptic plasticity (the ability of chemical synapses to change their strength), affecting memory formation and storage. Karl-Peter’s lab have recently discovered a new mechanism that could explain the memory and learning deficits seen in these disorders: multi-innervated spines (MIS) are synaptic connections where two neurons connect to another neuron, and Karl-Peter’s group found that synaptogenesis of these underlie memory formation when synaptic strengthening is impaired. These types of memories take longer to form and are less flexible and, therefore, cannot be easily modified by new learning, explaining the memory and learning deficits seen in autism and related disorders.