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Memory Improvement: An Encouraging Stride in the Fight for the Mind

For many of us, recounting significant life events and names of loved ones can be an easy feat. This is not always the case for those who suffer from Alzheimer's and dementia.

Scientists like Jim McGaugh from the University of California, Irvine, believe that there may be a way to restore an individual’s poor memory.

Researchers have come one step closer to a drug that could refine the brain’s biological search engine to effectively retrieve life events like weddings and anniversaries, as well as details that have been lost in the fog of time, like childhood classmates’ names and antics.

“The idea that an older memory can be strengthened is a novel and exciting finding," comments McGaugh, who was not involved with the research. “But it also raises the question: How does this work? And, does it apply to all memories?”

In last week's issue of Science, two recent experiments using rats indicate that the process of memory formation can in fact be manipulated, making it possible to recall experiences created in the past. Since rats are known to have very small memory capabilities, researchers infused an enzyme in the animals, PKM-zeta, and then offered them a drink of a sweet liquid they had tasted six days earlier. The rats refused the drink after remembering that it had made them sick the first time around.

“For years we thought that once a memory goes into long-term storage, no one could do anything with it; it would just gradually fade," comments Todd C. Sacktor, a neuroscientist at Downstate and an author of the paper. "Well, apparently that’s not true.”

Researchers of the experiments are torn as to whether the drug can work on all types of memories. Moreover, the risks of such a procedure on a human brain are unknown and whether the enhancement of the drug will weaken over time.

I’ve been working on memory enhancement since 1957 and I don’t know a single drug that came out that worked with animals that was later developed for humans,” said Dr. McGaugh. “It’s very interesting work; now let’s see where it goes.”

For details on this study, visit the Science web page HERE.

 

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