Drug shows promise in reversing cognitive decline
Researchers from the University of Florida have developed a drug that may help reverse mild cognitive decline in older adults. The type of memory targeted is known as “working memory,” which is the ability to recall day-to-day events.
How working memory functions depends on the right balance of chemicals in the brain. In a study of rats, the researchers wanted to see if high levels of an inhibitory brain neurotransmitter called GABA disrupt working memory.
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 seconds. 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. But older rats with memory problems produced more GABA receptors, meaning they had higher GABA levels.
Then the researchers tested a drug on older rats that blocked GABA receptor. This restored working memory to the same level as younger rats.
More testing is needed to determine if the drug is effective with humans.