Nav: Home

A brain wide chemical signal that enhances memory

January 24, 2017

How does heightened attention improve our mental capacity? This is the question tackled by new research published today in the journal Cell Reports, which reveals a chemical signal released across the brain in response to attention demanding or arousing situations.

The new discoveries indicate how current drugs used in the treatment of Alzheimer's, designed to boost this chemical signal, counter the symptoms of dementia. The results could also lead to new ways of enhancing cognitive function to counteract the effects of diseases such as Alzheimer's and schizophrenia, as well as enhancing memory in healthy people.

The team of medical researchers at the Universities of Bristol and Maynooth in collaboration with pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly & Company, studied how the release of the chemical 'acetylcholine' fluctuates during the day but found that the release is at its highest when the brain is engaged with more challenging mental tasks. The fluctuations are coordinated across the brain indicating a brain-wide signal to increase mental capacity with specific spikes in acetylcholine release occurring at particularly arousing times such as gaining reward.

Professor Jack Mellor, lead researcher from Bristol's Centre for Synaptic Plasticity, said: "These findings are about how brain state is regulated and updated on a rapid basis to optimise the encoding of memory and cognitive performance. Many current and future drug therapies for a wide range of brain disorders including Alzheimer's and schizophrenia are designed to target chemical systems such as acetylcholine so understanding when they are active and therefore how they function will be crucial for their future development and clinical use."

Professor Lowry, who led the team at Maynooth University, added: "This work highlights the importance of cross-disciplinary basic research between universities and industry. Using real-time biosensor technology to improve our understanding of the role of important neurochemicals associated with memory is very exciting and timely, particularly given the increasing multifaceted societal burden caused by memory affecting neurological disorders such as dementia."

Primary author Dr Leonor Ruivo added: "This collaboration gave us access to a new generation of tools which, in combination with other powerful techniques, will allow researchers to build on our findings and provide a much more detailed map of the action of brain chemicals in health, disease and therapeutic intervention."
-end-
The research team involved the University of Bristol's Centre for Synaptic Plasticity within the School of Physiology, Pharmacology & Neuroscience and the University of Maynooth department of Chemistry in collaboration with researchers at Lilly. The work was supported by the Wellcome Trust, BBSRC and Lilly.

University of Bristol

Related Schizophrenia Articles:

First physiological test for schizophrenia and depression
Researchers have found a new way of using proteins in nerve cells to identify people with depression and schizophrenia.
The emergence of a new dopamine hypothesis of schizophrenia
Biological Psychiatry presents a special issue, 'The Dopamine Hypothesis of Schizophrenia,' dedicated to recent advances in understanding the role of dopamine signaling in schizophrenia.
Progress in refining the genetic causes of schizophrenia
An international study led by the University of Exeter Medical School has made advances in understanding the ways in which genetic risk factors alter gene function in schizophrenia.
Exercise can tackle symptoms of schizophrenia
Aerobic exercise can significantly help people coping with the long-term mental health condition schizophrenia, according to a new study from University of Manchester researchers.
In search of neurobiological factors for schizophrenia
It is impossible to predict the onset of schizophrenic psychosis.
More Schizophrenia News and Schizophrenia Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Erasing The Stigma
Many of us either cope with mental illness or know someone who does. But we still have a hard time talking about it. This hour, TED speakers explore ways to push past — and even erase — the stigma. Guests include musician and comedian Jordan Raskopoulos, neuroscientist and psychiatrist Thomas Insel, psychiatrist Dixon Chibanda, anxiety and depression researcher Olivia Remes, and entrepreneur Sangu Delle.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#537 Science Journalism, Hold the Hype
Everyone's seen a piece of science getting over-exaggerated in the media. Most people would be quick to blame journalists and big media for getting in wrong. In many cases, you'd be right. But there's other sources of hype in science journalism. and one of them can be found in the humble, and little-known press release. We're talking with Chris Chambers about doing science about science journalism, and where the hype creeps in. Related links: The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases: retrospective observational study Claims of causality in health news: a randomised trial This...