Researchers Explore Enzyme That Can Both Increase, Decrease Memory

by U.S. Medicine

April 12, 2011

BETHESDA, MD—A new study into the biochemical mechanisms that control memory has added to the hope that someday scientists will be able to strengthen a person’s ability to remember through chemical intervention.

memory-enzyme.jpgNIH-funded researchers at the SUNY Downstate Medical Center in New York City have been experimenting with an enzyme, which can enhance a memory in a rat’s brain weeks after the event generating that memory occurred. Conversely, when this enzyme—PKM-zeta—is decreased, memory can be erased.

This is not the first time researchers have identified enzymes that impact memory. In January, researchers from another NIH-funded study reported that they had identified a naturally-occurring growth factor that significantly boosts memory retention. However, the growth factor’s effect was limited to specific time-limited windows in the memory retention process—right after a memory is formed and right after a memory is retrieved. The factor’s effect during retrieval may become less potent as a memory becomes older.

PKM-zeta seems to have no such limitations, however. In previous studies, researchers trained rats to associate the sweet taste of saccharin with sickness. Thereafter, the rats stayed away from saccharin. But after receiving a chemical that blocked PKM-zeta from the area where long-term memories are stored, the rats began eating saccharin again. This proved that a lack of PKM-zeta could erase memory.

In the newest study, the researchers used a virus to infect the neocortex—the brain’s outer mantle where long-term memories are stored—with PKM-zeta. Rats that received the boost avoided the sickness-inducing foods much better than the control rats.

“This pivotal mechanism could become a target for treatments to help manage debilitating emotional memories in anxiety disorders and for enhancing faltering memories in disorders of aging,” said NIMH Director Thomas R. Insel, MD, in a statement.

The challenge now is to discover how to target the enzyme to specific memories. Currently, the effects of PKM-zeta apply to multiple memories stored in the targeted brain area. Also, it is unknown whether the enzyme is helping with the retrieval of specific memories, or the entire mechanism of memory retrieval as a whole.

back to April articles


Comments are closed here.


Related Articles

Combat PTSD/TBI Increases Amygdala Size in Military Patients

SAN DIEGO—The region of the brain that processes fear, anxiety, aggression and similar emotions is larger in veterans and active-duty service members with combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder and mild traumatic brain injury than those with... View Article

Processes Similar in Schizophrenia, Psychotic Biopolar Disorder

NASHVILLE, TN—Processes leading to impairment in schizophrenia and psychotic bipolar disorder might be more similar than previously assumed, according to a new study. The report in Schizophrenia Research pointed out that neuropsychological impairment is common... View Article


U.S. Medicine Recommends


More From hhs and usphs

Department of Defense (DoD)

Telemedicine Allows Army, Indian Health Service to Expand Range of Diabetes Care

To reach the growing number of individuals in their care who have diabetes, both the Army and the Indian Health Service have aggressively adopted telemedicine

Pharmacists Play Big Role in More-Restrictive IHS Opioid Prescribing Rules

By Annette M. Boyle ROCKVILLE, MD—This summer, the Indian Health Service (IHS) instituted new rules for pharmacists and providers designed to reduce abuse and overuse of opioids, making it one of the first agencies to... View Article

Study Determines Patients Most Vulnerable to E. Coli H30

MINNEAPOLIS—The pandemic strain of drug-resistant E. coli H30 begins as a subtle, hard-to-detect infection, usually of the urinary tract. The strain is of special concern, however, according to a report in Clinical Infectious Diseases, because... View Article

HHS and USPHS

Stroke Kills Young American Indian/Alaska Natives at Twice Rate of Whites

By Annette M. Boyle ATLANTA – While three-quarters of stroke patients are older than 65, a “brain attack” can affect people of any age. For young American Indians and Alaskan Natives (AI/AN), that information is... View Article

Department of Defense (DoD)

Uniformed Pharmacists Take Half of Next Generation Pharmacist Awards

By Annette M. Boyle LAS VEGAS, NV — Of the 30 finalists in this year’s Next Generation Pharmacist awards, 30% worked in military or public health pharmacies, the strongest representation seen in the awards program.... View Article

Subscribe to U.S. Medicine Print Magazine

U.S. Medicine is mailed free each month to physicians, pharmacists, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and administrators working for Veterans Affairs, Department of Defense and U.S. Public Health Service.

Subscribe Now

Receive Our Email Newsletter

Stay informed about federal medical news, clinical updates and reports on government topics for the federal healthcare professional.

Sign Up