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Sunrise Senior Living Blog

Sunrise Senior Living Blog

Drug to 'Counter Age-Related Memory Loss' Investigated

Study shows that existing drug may help prevent memory loss in older adults. Researchers at Rockefeller University and The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York recently performed a study that showed an existing drug called riluzole - currently used to treat Lou Gehrig's disease - may also be useful as medication to reduce memory loss in an ageing brain.

Cognitive changes

The study treated a group of 10-month-old rats - the human equivalent of middle age - with the drug, as this is the period their memory tends to decline. It resulted in changes that have been proven to enhance connections and communication between specific neurons within the brain's hippocampus, which is responsible for memory. The study was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The scientists treated the rats for 17 weeks and then tested their spatial memory. The results showed that the treated rats performed better, and almost as well as young rats. When the rodents that were given the drug were placed in a maze they had previously explored, they recognised a new area that was unfamiliar to them and spent more time investigating and exploring it than the other rats.

There were obvious alterations to glutamate-sensing circuitry within the hippocampus when the researchers looked inside the brains of riluzole-treated rats. This indicates the treatment had an impact on the emotions and memory of the mice. 

"By examining the neurological changes that occurred after riluzole treatment, we discovered one way in which the brain's ability to reorganise itself - its neuroplasticity - can be marshaled to protect it against some of the deterioration that can accompany old age, at least in rodents," said the co-senior study author, Prof. Bruce McEwen, head of the Harold and Margaret Milliken Hatch Laboratory of Neuroendocrinology.

Why riluzole?

The researchers chose riluzole because it's effective at enhancing the control of the body's glutamate release and uptake, ultimately avoiding a spillover that could prove dangerous.

With ageing, synaptic strength - the connection between two neuron cells - usually declines, and riluzole increases this strength, clustering thin and plastic spines, which results in a therapeutic effect.

These findings lead the scientists to conclude that an ageing brain may compensate for the deterioration commonly seen with old age by increasing this type of clustering. The study proved that riluzole enhances this mechanism.

At Sunrise Senior Living, all our care homes include a dedicated dementia care neighbourhood for people living with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. To learn more, contact us today.

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