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
Not of Divided Mind
19.01.2017 | Hertie-Institut für klinische Hirnforschung (HIH)
CRISPR meets single-cell sequencing in new screening method
19.01.2017 | CeMM Forschungszentrum für Molekulare Medizin der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
19.01.2017 | Earth Sciences
19.01.2017 | Life Sciences
19.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy