Research findings of Heidelberg neurobiologists could lead to new treatment approaches for anxiety disorders
Increasing the level of a certain DNA-modified enzyme in the brain significantly improves cognitive ability. The discovery was made by the research team led by Prof. Dr. Hilmar Bading at the Interdisciplinary Center for Neurosciences of Heidelberg University.
Mouse experiments showed that the Dnmt3a2 protein can boost memory performance in the animals. Because this protein also affects fear memory and the ability to erase bad memories, the researchers hope these findings can be used to develop new treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder and other forms of anxiety. The results of the research were published in the journal “Molecular Psychiatry”.
In an earlier study, the Heidelberg scientists learned that there are reduced levels of Dnmt3a2 protein in the brains of older mice. When the elderly animals were injected with viruses that produce this protein, their memory capacity improved.
“Now we have found that increasing the Dnmt3a2 level in the brains of younger mice also boosts their cognitive ability,” explains Prof. Bading. In a number of different long-term memory tests, including classic Pavlovian conditioning, the scientists were able to demonstrate that mice with more Dnmt3a2 on board performed considerably better.
Dnmt3a2 is an epigenetic regulator that chemically modifies the genetic material, the DNA. The result is a change in the production rates of specific proteins. The activation of gene transcription, in which genetic information is transferred to RNA, and the subsequent synthesis of new proteins not only play a critical role in memory consolidation but also in memory erasure.
The Heidelberg neuroscientists therefore also carried out “erasure” experiments using similar methods as in confrontational therapy in patients. This therapy is used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder and aims to interrupt or even completely erase disturbing associations. “We found that mice with a higher Dnmt3a2 level in the brain were able to erase the association between a specific place and a painful stimulus with far greater efficiency,” explains Bading.
The findings of the Heidelberg neuroscientists give valuable new impetus to the treatment of cognitive impairment. “They could be used to develop new medications to improve memory in senile dementia or in patients suffering from neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s,” continues Prof. Bading.
The researchers also see the potential to develop new treatments for anxiety disorders. New medications that increase the production or activity of the enzyme could be combined with confrontational therapy. However, Prof. Bading also raised concerns since the new results open the door for possible misuse in healthy individuals to improve their mental processes and intellectual capability.
A. Oliveira, T. Hemstedt, H. Freitag, H. Bading: Dnmt3a2: a hub for enhancing cognitive functions. Psychiatry, 2015 Nov 24. doi: 10.1038/mp.2015.175
Prof. Dr. Hilmar Bading
Interdisciplinary Center for Neurosciences
Phone +49 6221 54-8218
Communications and Marketing
Phone +49 6221 54-2311
Marietta Fuhrmann-Koch | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
Meadows beat out shrubs when it comes to storing carbon
23.11.2017 | Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Migrating Cells: Folds in the cell membrane supply material for necessary blebs
23.11.2017 | Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster
Heat from the friction of rocks caused by tidal forces could be the “engine” for the hydrothermal activity on Saturn's moon Enceladus. This presupposes that...
The WHO reports an estimated 429,000 malaria deaths each year. The disease mostly affects tropical and subtropical regions and in particular the African continent. The Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC teamed up with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME and the Institute of Tropical Medicine at the University of Tübingen for a new test method to detect malaria parasites in blood. The idea of the research project “NanoFRET” is to develop a highly sensitive and reliable rapid diagnostic test so that patient treatment can begin as early as possible.
Malaria is caused by parasites transmitted by mosquito bite. The most dangerous form of malaria is malaria tropica. Left untreated, it is fatal in most cases....
The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.
Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...
Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.
That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...
Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.
During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....
15.11.2017 | Event News
15.11.2017 | Event News
30.10.2017 | Event News
23.11.2017 | Information Technology
23.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.11.2017 | Life Sciences