February 6, 2009

Vascular Drug May Improve Memory Too

A drug commonly used to help people recover from a stroke may one day help them improve their memories and learning abilities as well.

In a study conducted in middle-aged rats, Arizona researchers discovered a key component in Fasudil, which has been used safely and effectively in people for more than a decade, improved memory and learning. Specifically rats who received the component performed better on a test in which they had to remember which arm of a maze contained a reward than rats who received a placebo.

What's more, rats who received the highest dose of the drug had the best performance, suggesting learning and memory are improved according the dosage of the medication.

How does Fasudil help improve learning and memory? The authors explain the drug is known to protect the brain by dilating blood vessels when blood flow is curtailed, which is why it is used to treat stroke. From there, however, the drug breaks down into a molecule called hydroxyfasudil. The authors believe this molecule, which was given to the rats in their study, may be affecting memory due to its effects on the KIBRA gene. Studies have recently suggested a role for KIBRA in memory.

"Fasudil shows great promise as a cognitive enhancer during aging. The effects in our aging animal model were robust, showing enhancements in both learning and two measures of memory," study author Heather Bimonte-Nelson, Ph.D., was quoted as saying. "The possibility that these findings may translate to benefits to human brain health and function is very exciting."

SOURCE: Behavioral Neuroscience, published online February 2, 2009


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