Imagine the horror of a failing memory: you can't remember your children's names, where you live, or what year it is. But what if a pill could instantly restore your memory?
While the idea may seem like something out of science fiction, new research out of the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, suggests it could soon be a reality, the Vancouver Sun reported.
The study, led by neuroscientist Mauro Costa-Mattioli, discovered that suppressing a molecule called PKR in mice brains improved the rodents memory function.
According to the Vancouver Sun, Costa-Mattioli said that when PKR is "genetically surpressed" in the mice, the immune molecule known as gamma interferon increases communication between neurons, improving memory and brain function.
Costa-Mattioli described the memory tests the mice were given in an article published by ScienceDaily:
"For instance, when the authors assessed spatial memory (the memory for people, places and events) through a test in which mice use visual cues for finding a hidden platform in a circular pool, they found that normal mice had to repeat the task multiple times over many days in order to remember the platform's location. By contrast, mice lacking PKR learned the task after only one training session."
Even more exciting is the team's discovery that the process could be "mimicked" by a PKR inhibitor, essentially creating a "memory-enhancing drug."
"It is indeed quite amazing that we can also enhance both memory and brain activity with a drug that specifically targets PKR," Costa-Mattioli said, according to the ScienceDaily report. She added that the next step is translate the improved brain function in mice to humans suffering from memory loss.
The discovery comes after a similar break through in July in which scientists found that by lowering levels of a brain chemical called cAMP (cyclic adenosine monophosphate) the nerve connections in monkeys' prefrontal cortexes were strengthened, which reverses memory loss.
After working with monkeys from three different age groups, researchers found that the brain cells of older monkeys were able to hold signals better and "fire" just like those of younger monkeys.
According to TIME, researchers have begun conducting a trial in humans to see if the drug has the same effect.