London: Scientists have identified a key chemical that boosts memory, potentially opening the way to newer treatments for Alzheimer`s.
In a series of experiments, Mount Sinai School of Medicine researchers in the US showed that IGF-II plays a key role in memory.
The chemical is found in relatively high levels in the hippocampus, the brain`s memory hub. However, levels decline with age, the journal Nature reports.
To find out how it affects memory, rats were given mild electric shocks when they entered the darker side of a box.
As the creatures prefer shaded spots, any reluctance to re-enter the area was linked with remembrance of painful consequences. So, the more the animal avoided the darkness, the better it was at remembering where not to go, according to the Daily Mail.
Tests showed that levels of IGF-II rose as the animals learnt to avoid the dark spot - and that giving them an injection of the substance boosted memory even further.
New memories were strengthened and were slower to break down. In other words, the creatures found it harder to forget.
Examination of the animals` brains reviled that IGF-II had strengthened the cellular connections and mechanisms underlying long-term memory.
Researcher Cristina Alberini of Mount Sinai School said: "The implications of these data are far-reaching and give us new clues about how to investigate memory loss and forgetfulness in people with cognitive impairment, like those with Alzheimer`s disease, stroke or dementia."
Dutch researchers recently discovered that beta-blocker drugs used to treat heart disease may also help patients to banish bad memories.