Cancer drug helps sharpen memory, researchers find

07 October 2015

In an interesting finding, researchers observed that when they administered the drug RGFP966 to rats, the rodents were more attuned to what they were hearing and able to retain and even remember more information, overall.

In people suffering from Alzheimer's or another form of dementia, brain cells begin to shrink and die as the synapses that transfer information from one neuron to the next lose their strength. And although there were treatments to slow the progression of the disease, there was no way to cure or reverse the problem.

The drug being currently used in various cancer therapies to block the activation of genes that transformed normal cells into cancerous ones, might be used for such purposes at some time in future, according to researchers.

Researchers found that the drug helped make neurons more receptive to connections and even enhanced their ability to form memories. They further discovered that when used on the laboratory rats, the rodents remembered certain music following the study that they had been taught when receiving a reward. They also found that the rodents were more "tuned in" to certain acoustic signals that they heard during the training.

"People learning to speak again after a disease or injury as well as those undergoing cochlear implantation to reverse previous deafness, may be helped by this type of therapeutic treatment in the future," said Kasia M Bieszczad, lead author and assistant professor in Behavioral and Systems Neuroscience in the Department of Psychology, Rutgers University.

"The application could even extend to people with delayed language learning abilities or people trying to learn a second language."

''Memory-making in neurological conditions like Alzheimer's disease is often poor or absent altogether once a person is in the advanced stages of the disease,'' said Bieszczad. ''This drug could rescue the ability to make new memories that are rich in detail and content, even in the worst case scenarios.''

The drug administered in this animal study belonged to a class known as HDAC inhibitors. In the brain, the drug made neurons more plastic, better able to make connections and create positive changes that enhance memory.

''The application could even extend to people with delayed language learning abilities or people trying to learn a second language,'' said Bieszczad.

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