Beasts of Ephesus

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Posts Tagged ‘Memory’

Photographic Memory in Pill Form?

Posted by jase on July 8, 2009

The most interesting upgrades aren’t for your computer, your car, or even the internet – they’re for you.  We’ve always tinkered with our own thought processes (using crude equipment like “alcohol” and “regular exercise”) but now mankind has the tools and time to tune the system directly, and one team of scientists may make yellow sticky notes obsolete: they’ve found a way to boost visual memory.

A team of scientists at the Spanish University of Malaga were working with rat brains, because of the combination of ethics and wimpiness that prevents human trials.  They found that a particular protein (RGS-14) boosted a region of the brain known as the “V2 secondary visual cortex”, which makes rats sound significantly more like Terminators than you previously thought.  (Nightmares resulting from that image are not our responsibility).

Increasing the levels of this protein upgraded the rats visual memory allowing them to remember things for fifteen hundred times longer than normal (two months instead of an hour).  The interesting aspect is that this upgrade isn’t a new property, but a re-routing of existing processes – the protein seems to cause the formation of long term memories instead of short term, gifting the rat with what could be a photographic visual memory.  Which, considering that these are actual lab rats with needles being jabbed into their brains, probably sucks quite a lot.  The team also found that destruction of the V2 region utterly eliminated all visual memory of the past – which you can view as research, cruel, or gifting the the rats with a Zen state that takes decades of meditation to achieve.

The potential applications are obvious, and enormous, but beware the hidden downsides – the human brain is the most incredibly sophisticated system ever even conceived of and any tinkering can have huge side effects.  This doesn’t mean don’t do anything (we’d still be in caves otherwise), but be aware that you can’t say “IF this THEN that” where neural networks are concerned.  Intelligence-upgrades are an inevitable field, already in progress with prototype products like piracetam and caffeine, so it’s time to make up your mind if you’re going to make your own mind.

Source: Daily Galaxy

Posted in Biology, Medical, Science | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Coffee May Reverse Alzheimer’s

Posted by jase on July 5, 2009

Drinking five cups of coffee a day could reverse memory problems seen in Alzheimer’s disease, US scientists say.

The Florida research, carried out on mice, also suggested caffeine hampered the production of the protein plaques which are the hallmark of the disease.

Previous research has also suggested a protective effect from caffeine.

But British experts said the Journal of Alzheimer’s disease study did not mean that dementia patients should start using caffeine supplements.

The 55 mice used in the University of Florida study had been bred to develop symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

First the researchers used behavioural tests to confirm the mice were exhibiting signs of memory impairment when they were aged 18 to 19 months, the equivalent to humans being about 70.

Then they gave half the mice caffeine in their drinking water. The rest were given plain water.

The mice were given the equivalent of five 8 oz (227 grams) cups of coffee a day – about 500 milligrams of caffeine.

The researchers say this is the same as is found in two cups of “specialty” coffees such as lattes or cappuccinos from coffee shops, 14 cups of tea, or 20 soft drinks.

When the mice were tested again after two months, those who were given the caffeine performed much better on tests measuring their memory and thinking skills and performed as well as mice of the same age without dementia.

Those drinking plain water continued to do poorly on the tests.

In addition, the brains of the mice given caffeine showed nearly a 50% reduction in levels of the beta amyloid protein, which forms destructive clumps in the brains of dementia patients.

Further tests suggested caffeine affects the production of both the enzymes needed to produce beta amyloid.

The researchers also suggest that caffeine suppresses inflammatory changes in the brain that lead to an overabundance of the protein.

Earlier research by the same team had shown younger mice, who had also been bred to develop Alzheimer’s but who were given caffeine in their early adulthood, were protected against the onset of memory problems.

‘Safe drug’

Dr Gary Arendash, who led the latest study, told the BBC: “The results are particularly exciting in that a reversal of pre-existing memory impairment is more difficult to achieve.

“They provide evidence that caffeine could be a viable ‘treatment’ for established Alzheimer’s disease and not simply a protective strategy.

“That’s important because caffeine is a safe drug for most people, it easily enters the brain, and it appears to directly affect the disease process.”

The team now hope to begin human trials of caffeine to see if the mouse findings are replicated in people.

They do not know if a lower amount of caffeine would be as effective, but said most people could safely consume the 500 milligrams per day.

However they said people with high blood pressure, and pregnant women, should limit their daily caffeine intake.

Rebecca Wood, chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Research Trust, said: “In this study on mice with symptoms of Alzheimer’s, researchers found that caffeine boosted their memory. We need to do more research to find out whether this effect will be seen in people.

“It is too early to say whether drinking coffee or taking caffeine supplements will help people with Alzheimer’s.

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