- Memories could be restored to Alzheimer’s sufferers, experts have revealed
- Scientists at Columbia University said memories could be ‘reawakened’
- Research was based on mice whose brain cells were engineered to glow red when storing memories
Memories apparently destroyed by Alzheimer’s patients could one day be restored, new research suggests.
The damage to the brain caused by the disease has been thought to permanently wipe memories.
But new research in mice offers evidence that the memories are still there, that the problem is actually with the recall and that music can solve it.
People with Alzheimer’s suffer build ups of sticky, toxic plaque called Amyloid Beta on the surface of their brain cells, and tangly fibres called Tau inside their brain cells.
Now, research by scientists at Columbia University suggests that these memories are still there – and could be reawakened.
Ralph Martins at Edith Cowan University in Australia, who was not part of the research team, said the findings could be ‘revolutionary’.
He told New Scientist: ‘It has the potential to lead to novel drug development to help with regaining memories.’
He added that there are clues long-lost memories can be reawakened in people with Alzheimer’s disease.
‘Music is the best example, which has attracted a lot of attention as a way for retrieving memories of the past in these patients – so it makes sense.’
The research, published in the journal Hippocampus, was based on mice whose brain cells have been genetically engineered to glow red when they are storing memories, and yellow when they are being recalled.
The complex technique involves shining a laser on to the mouse’s brain using a fibre optic cable.
One group of mice were healthy, while the other had a condition that is similar to Alzheimer’s disease.
In a memory test, both sets of mice were exposed to a lemon scent, followed by an electric shock.
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The healthy mice would freeze much more often when exposed to the lemon.
The Alzheimer’s mice would do so much less often, suggesting they did not remember the link between the smell and the unpleasant shock.
When a laser light was shone on the mice’s brains, it was found that in the healthy mice, the red and yellow cells were linked in the hippocampus, the area of the brain that creates memories.
But in the ‘Alzheimer’s’ mice, different cells glowed red, indicating the mice were recalling an unconnected memory.
The findings may help explain why people with Alzheimer’s often suffer from false memories, the researchers said.
They added that the part of the hippocampus they studied, the dentate gyrus, seems to be a key area to target to prevent mental decline.
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