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UF researchers find drug therapy that could eventually reverse memory decline in seniors
Date:3/5/2014

GAINESVILLE, Fla. It may seem normal: As we age, we misplace car keys, or can't remember a name we just learned or a meal we just ordered. But University of Florida researchers say memory trouble doesn't have to be inevitable, and they've found a drug therapy that could potentially reverse this type of memory decline.

The drug can't yet be used in humans, but the researchers are pursuing compounds that could someday help the population of aging adults who don't have Alzheimer's or other dementias but still have trouble remembering day-to-day items. Their findings will be published in today's (March 5) issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.

The kind of memory responsible for holding information in the mind for short periods of time is called "working memory." Working memory relies on a balance of chemicals in the brain. The UF study shows this chemical balance tips in older adults, and working memory declines. The reason? It could be because their brains are producing too much of a chemical that slows neural activity.

"Graduate student Cristina Banuelos' work suggests that cells that normally provide the brake on neural activity are in overdrive in the aged prefrontal cortex," said researcher Jennifer Bizon, Ph.D., an associate professor in the department of neuroscience and a member of UF's Evelyn F. & William L. McKnight Brain Institute.

This chemical, an inhibitory brain neurotransmitter called GABA, is essential. Without it, brain cells can become too active, similar to what happens in the brains of people with schizophrenia and epilepsy. A normal level of GABA helps maintain the optimal levels of cell activation, said collaborator Barry Setlow, Ph.D., an associate professor in UF's departments of psychiatry and neuroscience.

Working memory underlies many mental abilities and is sometimes referred to as the brain's mental sketchpad, Bizon said. For example, Bizon said, you use your working memory in many ev
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Contact: Morgan Sherburne
msherburne@ufl.edu
352-273-6160
University of Florida
Source:Eurekalert

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