Irvine, Calif., July 27, 2006 -- A drug made to enhance memory appears to trigger a natural mechanism in the brain that fully reverses age-related memory loss, even after the drug itself has left the body, according to researchers at UC Irvine.
Professors Christine Gall and Gary Lynch, along with Associate Researcher Julie Lauterborn, were among a group of scientists who conducted studies on rats with a class of drugs known as ampakines. Ampakines were developed in the early 1990s by UC researchers, including Lynch, to treat age-related memory impairment and may be useful for treating a number of central nervous system disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease and schizophrenia. In this study, the researchers showed that ampakine drugs continue to reverse the effects of aging on a brain mechanism thought to underlie learning and memory even after they are no longer in the body. They do so by boosting the production of a naturally occurring protein in the brain necessary for long-term memory formation.
The study appears in the August issue of the Journal of Neurophysiology.
"This is a significant discovery," said Gall, professor of anatomy and neurobiology. "Our results indicate the exciting possibility that ampakines could be used to treat learning and memory loss associated with normal aging."
The researchers treated two groups of middle-aged rats twice a day for four days with either a solution that contained ampakines or one that did not. They then studied the hippocampus region of the rats' brains, an area critical for memory and learning. They found that in the ampakine-treated rats, there was a significant increase in the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein known to play a key role in memory formation. They also found an increase in long-term potentiation (LTP), the process by which the connection between the brain cells is enhanced and memory is encoded. This enhancement is responsible for
Contact: Farnaz Khadem
University of California - Irvine