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UM School of Medicine scientists develop new strategy that may improve cognition
Date:6/30/2010

ally engineered to have more than 70 percent lower kynurenic acid levels than ordinary mice. These mice were found to perform significantly better than their normal peers on several widely used tests that specifically measure function in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a critical area of the brain for memory and spatial navigation. The mice were clearly superior in their ability to explore and recognize objects, to remember unpleasant experiences and to navigate a maze. The engineered animals also showed increased hippocampal plasticity, meaning they had a greatly improved ability to convert electrical stimuli into long-lasting memories.

"These results are very exciting, because they open up an entirely new way of thinking about the formation and retrieval of memories," says Dr. Schwarcz. "Kynurenic acid has been known for more than 150 years, but only now do we recognize it as a major player in one of the fundamental functions of the brain. Our most recent work, still unpublished, shows that new chemicals that specifically influence the production of kynurenic acid in the brain predictably affect cognition. We are now in the process of developing such compounds for cognitive enhancement in humans."

"I feel confident Dr. Schwarcz's determined pursuit of answers for the desperate patients suffering from devastating neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's disease and Huntington's disease, and psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia, will pay off," says E. Albert Reece, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A., vice president for medical affairs, University of Maryland, and John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor and dean, University of Maryland School of Medicine. "His work creates hope for these patients and their families, and his findings are making a significant impact on the field of neuroscience and psychiatric medicine."


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Contact: Karen Buckelew
kbuckelew@som.umaryland.edu
410-706-7590
University of Maryland Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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