Scientists Reverse Memory Loss
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SCIENTISTS 'REVERSE' MEMORY LOSS
April 29, 2007
Mental stimulation and drug treatment could help people with degenerative
brain diseases such as Alzheimer's recover their memories, a study says.
Scientists found mice with a similar condition to Alzheimer's were able to
regain memories of tasks they had previously been taught.
A team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found two methods --
brain stimulation and drugs -- both worked.
Their findings were published in British journal Nature.
The researchers used genetically engineered mice in which a protein linked
to degenerative brain disease could be triggered.
Scientists had previously given the mice tests where they learnt to avoid an
electric shock and how to find their way through a maze to reach food.
After six weeks with the brain disease, the mice were no longer able to
remember how to perform these tasks.
Some of the mice were then placed in a more stimulating environment with
toys, treadmills and other mice.
The playground mice were able to remember the shock test far better than the
mice in other cages. They were also better at learning new things.
Scientists then tested a class of drugs called histone deacetylase, or HDAC,
inhibitors on the mice.
These also improved memory and learning, similar to improvements made by
Neuroscientist Li-Huei Tsai of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology said the results could offer hope to
people with diseases like Alzheimer's.
"We show the first evidence that even if the brain suffered some very severe
neurodegeneration and the individual exhibits very severe learning
impairment and memory loss, there is still the possibility to improve
learning ability and recover to a certain extent lost long-term memories."
She said the study suggested that in people with degenerative brain
diseases, memories were not erased from the brain, but rather could not be
accessed because of the disease.
She added that while most treatments for Alzheimer's targeted the disease's
early stages, this research showed that even after major brain damage it was
still possible to improve learning and memory.
Dr Susanne Sorensen, head of research, Alzheimer's Society, said: "These
results cannot automatically be translated to people and a lot more has to
be done to narrow the focus on the processes that are involved.
"However, by demonstrating that lost memories can be accessed again these
results offer hope of a better understanding of what happens to memories as
"It highlights the role of both an 'enriching environment' and through its
focus on biochemical processes could provide important building blocks for
new treatments to alleviate the symptoms of dementia."
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Published by David Sunfellow
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