posted on Nov, 28 2004 @ 07:44 PM
They say good things come in small packages. Researchers at Columbia University are working with a marine snail to understand how human memory
functions. The snail, despite its smaller brain size, is very similar to the human brain and may hold knowledge to how our memory works.
Implications are that someday soon (possibly a few years) there may exist a pill we can take to either improve or stabilize our memory. This could be
an important discovery as America, and the world, ages.
Thanks to the neurological research of Nobel laureate Eric Kandel and others, Aplysia's minimal nervous system is helping scientists to make sense of
how memory works on the biochemical level. The molecules of memory in sea slugs, it turns out, aren't that different from some of those in humans.
They are now one of the many inspirations for drugs that may someday ward off the forgetfulness that plagues so many people as they grow older. As
Americans' average age creeps upward, the search for medicines that will keep them sharp is accelerating. "We're all very, very avidly grinding up
cells trying to get at the molecules," says Dr. Scott Small of Columbia University Medical Center.
No pill to improve memory, aside from alternative remedies of dubious effectiveness, is currently on the market. But several small biotech companies
are launching drugs grounded in the latest research, with a few already in the early stages of clinical trials that could be finished in as little as
"two years, if we're lucky," says Kandel, who is now at CUMC and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Some of the most promising candidates have their
roots in Aplysia studies. Others take their cues from even more improbable sources like the molecular consequences of smoking, focusing on some of the
same receptors that nicotine targets. (Who knew it had benefits?) "These are very exciting times for treating memory loss," says Steven Siegelbaum, a
neuroscientist at CUMC and HHMI. And with trials soon to yield results, they're about to get even more exciting.
Please visit the link provided for the complete story.
The implications of this are incredible. Most likely all of us know someone who is getting older and seems forgetful. The possibility of taking a
pill to delay this onset is amazing.
Interestingly, this research started decades ago when a patient who had seizures until his temporal lobes were removed. Following the procedure this
patient was unable to develop any new memories. The region of the brain that this new research centers on is found deep inside the temporal lobes.
Until recently research on memory was considered a lost cause due to its lack of understanding. It looks like we are now retracting that theory and
beginning to move forward.
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