Humans and Health

The Experimental Drug that may Reduce Memory Loss

It has been reported that a new experimental drug, a derivative of benzodiazepine, may improve memory loss among elderly people. Tests have shown that animals of old age had “better memory skills half an hour after receiving the drug”, which could be taken as a daily pill by those over 55 if clinical trials prove that the medicine is safe and effective.

The drug may benefit those with depression, Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia; it has been found that many individuals with these disorders have poorer cognition than average, which this medication could adjust by improving decision making, organisation and memory. Medication like this is not currently sold or produced, so it would an extraordinary discovery if the drug bodes well in clinical trials.

Memory loss has been found to have a direct link with the levels of GABA, a neurotransmitter, which slow down the rate at “which neurons fire, effectively dampening down electrical noise in the brain”. By taking the new drug, which would target GABA receptors, this electrical noise would decrease in the brain and important signals could be processed easier.

“improving decision making, organisation and memory”

However, will this drug really have an impact on Alzheimer’s disease? It is not certain what causes Alzheimer’s disease, but it has been discovered that those with Alzheimer’s are prone to cortical thinning, which is associated with the loss of cognitive symptoms such as orientation, judgement, and memory. Would this drug alone be able to prevent this process, or even thicken cortical areas?

Those with Alzheimer’s additionally often have widespread amounts of tau in the neural networks of the brain, leading to neurofibrillary tangles. These tangles lead to the dysfunction and death of neurons, which can lead to slower cognitive function. Again, it seems ambitious that the drug will be able to stop or reduce the production of tau, but perhaps it is possible if the drug proves to be effective in improving cognitive impairments in those with Alzheimer’s through clinical trials. It seems that more information about the workings of the drug are needed to hypothesise whether it would be effective on various neurobiological aspects of Alzheimer’s disease, or indeed any mental disorder.

“a sure sign of hope that mental disorders and cognitive function can be better treated”

Lab tests did show, however, that there was no effect on animals that were young and healthy. So, if you’re a healthy human and reading this thinking that you may be able to get your hands on the drug and improve your memory, unfortunately you’re out of luck!

Researchers are planning to run trials soon with human participants that have a diagnosis of depression. People with impaired cognitive abilities in remission from depression are more likely to relapse, so it is hoped that when these individuals take the drug, by improving cognitive function, they are less likely to relapse back into depressive states.

The drug is a sure sign of hope that mental disorders and cognitive function can be better treated in the future, and with clinical trials starting within the next few months, it will be revolutionary if the drug proves that it is effective in treating cognitive impairments.

Hannah Pickard 

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Featured image courtesy of Emrys Roberts via Flickr. No changes were made to this image. Image license found here.

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