Simi Pharmacy

Memory in a bottle ?

Today’s blog is about something that is NOT on the shelf at Simi Pharmacy yet, but it may not be long before a discovery in a university in the Netherlands enhances brain-power in a remarkable way.  Get ready to expand your mind… 

We’ve all had the experience:

We know something … a name to go with a face, a location, an anniversary, some specific little bit of data.  The answer is hovering right on the tip of our tongue but …  We just can’t spit it out.


And then what happens?  Hours after we needed – but couldn’t remember – a particular bit of information, it suddenly pops up.

Moral of the story:  It’s not what we know, it’s what we can remember.

What if we could get some assistance in retrieving what we know?  Something other than Google.   Could there be something like a “MEMORY PILL” ?

Some five years ago, Robbert Havekes, a neuroscientist in the University of Groningen (Netherlands) began experimenting on how sleep deprivation effects memory. Specifically, he wanted to find out whether the mind actually lost information because of sleep deprivation, or if the mind just has difficulty in remembering the information.

His experiment was complicated, involving mice genetically engineered to have neurons that produced a light-sensitive protein.  The mice were kept awake but at the same time they were trained to perform a spatial learning task.  By using light to activate the neurons in mices’ brains, Havekes’ mice were able to perform their task even though they were sleep-deprived. 

Then Havekes remembered something:  a drug called roflumilast targets exactly the same neurons.  This drug is already clinically approved for use in humans and is known to enter the brain.  It is prescribed for people with asthma or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.

So he gave the mice roflumilast.

Here’s what he says   in Sci Tech Daily [Feb 9, 2023 Recovering “Hidden Knowledge” – How an Asthma Medication Could Restore Memories]

When we gave mice that were trained while being sleep-deprived roflumilast just before the second test, they remembered, exactly as happened with the direct stimulation of the neuronsThe discovery that more information is present in the brain than we previously anticipated, and that these ‘hidden’ memories can be made accessible again – at least in mice – opens up all kinds of exciting possibilities.  It might be possible to stimulate the memory accessibility in people with age-induced memory problems or early-stage Alzheimer’s disease with roflumilast. And maybe we could reactivate specific memories to make them permanently retrievable again, as we successfully did in mice.”

The neuroscientist’s work focused on understanding the molecular mechanisms that underlie the workings of memory: specifically  HOW roflumilast restores access to these hidden’ memories. There is still much to discover.

But … what he has found so far is that roflumilast does indeed have this effect on the mind’s ability to recall.

It’s a sure bet that we will see a dramatic upswing in research on roflumilast.  Just think of how such a drug could improve the lives of people with Alzheimer’s or other age-induced memory problems!

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