As we age, many of us may struggle to remember simple things,
such as directions or what film we watched last night. But researchers
from the University of Florida say they have discovered a drug that has
the potential to reverse mild cognitive decline among older adults.
This is according to a study recently published in the Journal of Neuroscience.
The research team, including Prof. Jennifer Bizon of the university''''s
Department of Neuroscience, explains that the type of memory responsible
for the recall of day-to-day items is known as the "working memory."
We use this memory for everyday activities, such as calculating the final bill after dining in a restaurant.
Prof. Bizon explains that in order to work out a 15% tip, for example,
our brains must hold multiple pieces of information in mind for short
periods, such as remembering the cost of dinner while calculating the
amount of money needed for a tip. This process is central to working
memory among other "higher" cognitive processes, according to Prof.
In order for working memory to function properly, there must be
the right balance of chemicals in the brain. But in their study, which
was conducted in rats, the researchers found that high levels of an
inhibitory brain neurotransmitter called GABA may disrupt working
Normal levels of GABA in the brain help regulate cell activation, but
increased levels can cause brain cells to become too active. The
researchers say this causes brain activity similar to that found in
people with schizophrenia or epilepsy.
Drug ''''blocks GABA receptors and restores working memory''''
To reach their findings, the research team assessed the memory of both
young and old rats using a "Skinner box" - a box in which the rats had
to remember the location of a lever for short periods of up to 30
Both young and old rats were able to remember the location of the lever
for very brief periods. But the researchers found that when these time
periods grew, many of the older rats had difficulties remembering where
the lever was, compared with the younger rats.
Further investigation revealed that older rats with no memory problems
produced fewer GABA receptors, which led to lower levels of the
chemical. However, older rats with memory problems produced more GABA
receptors, meaning they had higher GABA levels.
The researchers then tested a drug on older rats that blocked
GABA receptors and mimicked the lower number of receptors that some
older rats without memory problems had naturally. This restored working
memory to the same level as younger rats.
Although the drug is not yet ready for testing in humans, the
researchers hope that further development could lead to the drug being
used to treat seniors with mild cognitive decline.
Prof. Bizon adds:
"Modern medicine has done a terrific job of keeping us
alive for longer, and now we have to keep up and determine how to
maximize the quality of life for seniors.
A key aspect of that is going to be developing strategies and therapies that can maintain and improve cognitive health."
Previous research has investigated the use of other drugs to combat age-related cognitive disorders. Last year, Medical News Today reported on a study suggesting how a diabetes drug, called liraglutide, may reverse memory loss in the late stages of Alzheimer''''s disease.
Other research found that an anti-cancer drug, already used for T cell lymphoma, reversed Alzheimer''''s disease in mice.
Source by http://www.medicalnewstoday.com