Better Memory Through Chemistry
Dr Arancio is a cellular neurobiologist who has contributed to the characterization of the mechanisms of learning in both normal conditions and during neurodegenerative diseases. During the past decade he has pioneered the field of mechanisms of synaptic dysfunction in Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Arancio’s laboratory has focused primarily on events triggered by amyloid protein. These studies, which have suggested new links between synaptic dysfunction and amyloid protein, are of a general relevance to the field of Alzheimer’s disease both for understanding the etiopathogenesis of the disease and for developing therapies aiming to improve the cognitive symptoms.
Question: What factors affect our memory?
Ottavio Arancio: One of the biggest factors that can affect it is attention for instance. I mean if you do not pay attention to something it’s very likely that you will learn what you have… yeah, what you just saw. For instance, just to make an example I bet that many people… many of us remember what we did on September 11 because you know there was a coincidence of just we paid particular attention to all what happened that day. I bet that much less people will remember what happened the day before or 2 days before. So that’s… attention is also… is very, very important. Another factor that is very important would be motivation to… If you don’t care about doing something you will not learn about it if you are depressed or things like that, you will not learn what you just saw, what you just did. You will not memorize what you just did. Obviously you need to be able to perceive the stimulus. If you cannot see, no way that you will remember or if you do not hear you cannot remember words. So we need to be able to get to those things. This is stuff that we…help remembering. Obviously those are not the only things because we can monitor also through chemicals and other ways also memories and hopefully in the future we’ll be even better at that. So we can also stimulate memory chemically.
Question: How do memory enhancing chemicals work?
Ottavio Arancio: What they do, they will work at the level of the synaptic connection and since at the time of memory there is a chain of chemical reaction at the level of the synapse, but chemical means the same…protein, enzyme, molecule are activated. What we do, we kind of force the system activation through this chemical and through the knowledge of these chemicals to enhance memory, and we do this very well in animals and hopefully we’ll be able to do it in people as well.
Question: What chemicals can do this?
Ottavio Arancio: There are many chemicals that one can use to enhance memory and there are many proteins that are relevant to the process of learning and memory. For instance, all chemicals that act on a particular gene by the name of CREB that they stimulate this gene and they can do in several different ways, are all molecules that in animals work quite well at enhancing memory.
Question: Are these chemicals available now?
Ottavio Arancio: No, they are. They are available, but we can give an extra additional amount. What we do with these chemicals, we take advantage of knowledge of what normally happens in nature and we little bit push in this. Aiding disease is even easier because sometimes if in disease we find out one of these chemicals is less in lower amount than what it would be normally we just help the process by giving it artificially.
Simply paying attention can do a lot to improve recollection, but scientists are also working on a wide variety of memory-boosting drugs.
Explore how alcohol affects your brain, from the first sip at the bar to life-long drinking habits.
- Alcohol is the world's most popular drug and has been a part of human culture for at least 9,000 years.
- Alcohol's effects on the brain range from temporarily limiting mental activity to sustained brain damage, depending on levels consumed and frequency of use.
- Understanding how alcohol affects your brain can help you determine what drinking habits are best for you.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx a team of DNA sequencers has figured that out.
- A team at UMass Amherst recently sequenced the genome of the Canadian lynx.
- It's part of a project intending to sequence the genome of every vertebrate in the world.
- Conservationists interested in the Canadian lynx have a new tool to work with.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx, I can now—as of this month—point you directly to the DNA of a Canadian lynx, and say, "That's what makes a lynx a lynx." The genome was sequenced by a team at UMass Amherst, and it's one of 15 animals whose genomes have been sequenced by the Vertebrate Genomes Project, whose stated goal is to sequence the genome of all 66,000 vertebrate species in the world.
Sequencing the genome of a particular species of an animal is important in terms of preserving genetic diversity. Future generations don't necessarily have to worry about our memory of the Canadian Lynx warping the way hearsay warped perception a long time ago.
Artwork: Guillaume le Clerc / Wikimedia Commons
13th-century fantastical depiction of an elephant.
It is easy to see how one can look at 66,000 genomic sequences stored away as being the analogous equivalent of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is a potential tool for future conservationists.
But what are the practicalities of sequencing the genome of a lynx beyond engaging with broad bioethical questions? As the animal's habitat shrinks and Earth warms, the Canadian lynx is demonstrating less genetic diversity. Cross-breeding with bobcats in some portions of the lynx's habitat also represents a challenge to the lynx's genetic makeup. The two themselves are also linked: warming climates could drive Canadian lynxes to cross-breed with bobcats.
John Organ, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife units, said to MassLive that the results of the sequencing "can help us look at land conservation strategies to help maintain lynx on the landscape."
What does DNA have to do with land conservation strategies? Consider the fact that the food found in a landscape, the toxins found in a landscape, or the exposure to drugs can have an impact on genetic activity. That potential change can be transmitted down the generative line. If you know exactly how a lynx's DNA is impacted by something, then the environment they occupy can be fine-tuned to meet the needs of the lynx and any other creature that happens to inhabit that particular portion of the earth.
Given that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing protection for the Canadian lynx, a move that caught scientists by surprise, it is worth having as much information on hand as possible for those who have an interest in preserving the health of this creature—all the way down to the building blocks of a lynx's life.
The exploding popularity of the keto diet puts a less used veggie into the spotlight.
- The cauliflower is a vegetable of choice if you're on the keto diet.
- The plant is low in carbs and can replace potatoes, rice and pasta.
- It can be eaten both raw and cooked for different benefits.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.