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Cancer drug RGFP966 appears to sharpen memory

Posted: 5 October 2015 | Victoria White

Rats given RGFP966 were more attuned to what they were hearing and were able to retain and remember more information…

Researchers from Rutgers University have found that when the drug RGFP966 is administered to rats, it appears to improve their memory.

Rats given RGFP966 were more attuned to what they were hearing, able to retain and remember more information, and develop new connections that allowed these memories to be transmitted between brain cells.

“Memory-making in neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s disease is often poor or absent altogether once a person is in the advanced stages of the disease,” said Kasia M. Bieszczad, assistant professor in Behavioural and Systems Neuroscience in the Department of Psychology. “This drug could rescue the ability to make new memories that are rich in detail and content, even in the worst case scenarios.”

In dementias such as Alzheimer’s disease, brain cells shrink and die because the synapses that transfer information from one neuron to another are no longer strong and stable. There is no therapeutic treatment available that reverses this situation.

RGFP966 is among a class known as HDAC inhibitors – now being used in cancer therapies to stop the activation of genes that turn normal cells into cancerous ones. In the brain, the drug makes the neurons more plastic, better able to make connections and create positive changes that enhance memory. Researchers found that laboratory rats, taught to listen to a certain sound in order to receive a reward, and given RGFP966 after training, remembered what they learned and responded correctly to the tone at a greater rate than those not given the drug.

RGFP966 could potentially be used to assist people with delayed language learning abilities

Scientists also found that the rodents were more “tuned in” to the relevant acoustic signals they heard during their training – an important finding Bieszczad said because setting up the brain to better process and store significant sounds is critical to human speech and language.

“People learning to speak again after a disease or injury as well as those undergoing cochlear implantation to reverse previous deafness, may be helped by this type of therapeutic treatment in the future,” said Bieszczad “The application could even extend to people with delayed language learning abilities or people trying to learn a second language.”

This hypersensitivity in processing auditory information enabled the neurons to reorganise and create new pathways – allowing more of the information they learned to become a long-term memory, said Bieszczad.

“People normally remember an experience with limited detail – not everything we see, hear and feel is remembered,” she said. “What has happened here is that memory becomes closer to a snapshot of the actual experience instead of being sparse, limited or inaccurate.”

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