News Feature | April 28, 2014

UF Researchers Develop Drug To Reverse Memory Loss Caused By Aging

By Marcus Johnson

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A research team from the University of Florida is working on developing a drug that could help treat and reverse memory loss due to aging. The researchers state that they are studying compounds that could potentially help aging adults that don’t have Alzheimer’s or any other form of dementia. Researchers are focusing on “working memory,” which is the kind of memory responsible for holding memories for short periods of time. When the brain ages, chemical imbalances can slow neural activity and slow people’s working memory. The chemical responsible for the decline in working memory is called GABA, which is an inhibitory brain neurotransmitter. Without the GABA chemical, brain cells can become overly active — similar to those found in patients suffering from schizophrenia or epilepsy. However, too much of this chemical could slow neural activity.

The University of Florida researchers studied the memory of rats, and found that older rats with more GABA receptors had more “working memory” problems. However, not all old rats had the same memory problems — just those with higher levels of GABA receptors. Some rats were able to naturally compensate for an overactive inhibitory system by producing less GABA receptors. The researchers were able to use their drug on older rats’ high levels of GABA receptors, blocking the receptors and restoring some of their working memory.

Jennifer Bizon, associate professor at the University of Florida’s department neuroscience, worked on the study. She said that all higher cognitive processes depend on the working memory. “Modern medicine has done a terrific job of keeping us alive for longer, and now we have to keep up and determine how to maximize the quality of life for seniors,” Bizon said. “A key aspect of that is going to be developing strategies and therapies that can maintain and improve cognitive health.”

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