There are drugs that help you remember what you learn, and ones that erase your memory. But until now, there have no substances with the power to enhance and strengthen old memories hovering on the brink of being forgotten. Now a group of neuroscientsts say they've isolated a single enzyme in the brain that can help long-term memories remain crisp in your mind.
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Reut Shema and her colleagues knew that the enzyme PKMzeta helped maintain the long-term storage of memories in the brain. But recently they discovered that boosting levels of PKMzeta helped rats recall, in great detail, events they'd experienced many days beforehand. Lowering levels of the enzyme caused the rats to forget old memories more quickly. What's remarkable about this discovery is that the enzyme can help the animals recall these old memories even if they weren't boosting their levels of PKMzeta at the time the memories were formed.
A release about the study, published today in Science, explains:
Shema and colleagues now show that overexpressing the enzyme in the insular cortex region of the rat brain can strengthen more than one memory at a time and improve memories that were established months before the enzyme experiment.
If the same treatment works for humans, we could be looking at a way to deal with age-related memory loss. And a way to help us recall information we once knew intimately, but which has grown cloudy as the years have passed.
You can read the authors' full account of their experiments and how the enzyme works, in Science.