Memory-enhancing drugs for elderly may impair high-level brain function

A new study cautions that drugs being designed to enhance some forms of memory in the elderly may actually worsen working memory, such as the cognitive ability to hold a phone number in mind long enough to dial it.

The research, published online in Neuron on November 5, analyzes the effects of these drugs on multiple brain regions and suggests that the medications may actually have hazardous consequences on higher-order thought processes that are regulated by the prefrontal cortex.

The hippocampus has been associated with long-term memory formation, while the prefrontal cortex has been associated with working memory. In a healthy brain, the two brain systems work together to optimize cognitive abilities. Compounds that increase the activity of an enzyme called protein kinase A (PKA) improve long-term hippocampal-dependent memory in aged mice and have been proposed as possible therapeutics for memory deficits in elderly humans. Because aging impairs both hippocampal-dependent and prefrontal memory function, Dr. Amy F.T. Arnsten, Dr. Ronald S. Duman, and colleagues from Yale University investigated how agents that increase PKA activity influence prefrontal cortical function in animals. The researchers observed that, in contrast to hippocampal-dependent long-term memory, dynamic working memory in older animals is impaired by PKA stimulation and enhanced by PKA inhibition. Moreover, they found that PKA is disinhibited in the prefrontal cortex of aged rats with naturally occurring working memory deficits.

The researchers conclude that aging has diverse effects on different brain regions-specifically, decreasing PKA activity in the hippocampus and increasing it in the prefrontal cortex. These observations suggest that compounds designed to increase PKA activity may exacerbate age-dependent decline in working memory.

According to Dr. Arnsten, “We need to respect the diverse chemical needs of higher cortical brain regions if we are to develop effective cognitive enhancers for the elderly.”

Media Contact

Jacqueline Weaver EurekAlert!

All news from this category: Health and Medicine

This subject area encompasses research and studies in the field of human medicine.

Among the wide-ranging list of topics covered here are anesthesiology, anatomy, surgery, human genetics, hygiene and environmental medicine, internal medicine, neurology, pharmacology, physiology, urology and dental medicine.

Back to the Homepage

Comments (0)

Write comment

Latest posts

A little friction goes a long way toward stronger nanotube fibers

Rice model may lead to better materials for aerospace, automotive, medical applications. Carbon nanotube fibers are not nearly as strong as the nanotubes they contain, but Rice University researchers are…

Light-induced twisting of Weyl nodes switches on giant electron current

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory and collaborators at Brookhaven National Laboratory and the University of Alabama at Birmingham have discovered a new light-induced switch that twists…

Acidification impedes shell development of plankton off the US West Coast

Shelled pteropods, microscopic free-swimming sea snails, are widely regarded as indicators for ocean acidification because research has shown that their fragile shells are vulnerable to increasing ocean acidity. A new…

Partners & Sponsors

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.