The Systems Biology of Forgetting

An outstanding feature of our brain is its ability to form memories. However, memories are not necessarily written in stone and are subject to active and passive forms of decay. In this project, the issue of forgetting is approached jointly from distinct angles, connecting theory with large-scale quantitative experimental data by means of behavioral, genetic, transcriptomic and imaging techniques.

Acquiring new memories is essential to existence and adaptation in constantly changing environments. However, it is as important to be able to forget and erase memories that are unused or no longer important. Surprisingly, little is known regarding the active processes that underlie the phenomenon of forgetting. The passive decay of memories and interference of newly acquired and old memories are considered an inevitable property of the underlying networks. 

Possible medical applications

Understanding the active neural and genetic processes that allow for forgetting, and approaching this phenomenon in a systems biology framework will open new doors for later medical applications. Undeniably, forgetting will become a prevalent theme in an aging society, be it as a burden that requires medical treatment, or as a wise invention of nature to adapt.

Interdisciplinary approach

In the SynaptiX collaborative research program, we will systematically investigate the biology of forgetting in an interdisciplinary fashion by combining theory, quantitative behavioral experiments, genetic engineering, next generation sequencing, and super-resolution microscopy.

Principal Investigator Prof. Simon Sprecher, Department of Biology, University of Fribourg
Involved Institutions University of Fribourg, University of Bern, University of Nevada
Number of Research Groups 5
Project Duration May 2013 – Apr. 2017
Approved Funds CHF 1.975 million

Updated June 2013


Prof. Simon Sprecher
Department of Biology
University of Fribourg
Chemin du Musée 10
CH - 1700 Fribourg
phone +41 26 300 89 01

The RTD Project SynaptiX featured in X-Letter 28: PDF Download