Memory boost

  • November 5, 2013
Memory boost

Brianne Kent will present her research on the potential of boosting memory function through diet at the world's largest neuroscience conference next week.

A Gates Cambridge Scholar is presenting research on the potential for boosting memory function through diet at the world’s largest neuroscience conference next week.

Brianne Kent will be presenting her research on 11 November at the Society for Neuroscience conference, which is attended by over 30,000 scientists after it was chosen as a “Hot Topic”. 

The research demonstrates that new brain cells produced during adulthood may play an important role in memory formation and suggests that healthy lifestyle choices associated with increased brain cell production, such as reducing daily food intake, may have lasting benefits on memory function.

It looks at the links between adult neurogenesis [the process of generating new neurons which integrate into existing circuits after fetal and early postnatal development has ceased] and cognitive function and specifically at the role the hormone ghrelin plays. Ghrelin is released by the stomach in the absence of food and has been shown to positively affect cognitive processes and the structure and production of new adult-born cells. The research demonstrates that preventing new cells from forming in the hippocampus of rats impairs spatial memory which is important for memory function.

Additionally, increasing the total number of new brain cells by administering ghrelin to rats is associated with long-lasting improvements in spatial memory, allowing treated animals to distinguish very similar locations otherwise indistinguishable and to store distinct memories for very similar events.

The results of the research suggest that ghrelin makes the brain more able to keep memories for similar locations distinct in the brain. It also confirms that ghrelin does not need to be administered directly to the brain in order to have beneficial effects on the production of brain cells and cognition. Because ghrelin is an endogenous hormone and can be partially controlled by calorie restriction, it provides a therapeutic framework for designing lifestyle strategies that are cost-effective and non-pharmacological.

Brianne, who is doing a PhD in Experimental Psychology [2011], says: “Arguably, one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century is the escalating health and societal burden associated with age-related cognitive impairment and dementia. By identifying potential targets for cognitive enhancing interventions, this research may eventually aid in the development of treatments for disorders affecting memory.”

Picture credit: Lavoview and www.freedigitalphotos.net.

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