Researchers have found that mice with induced memory loss are able to retrieve memories after they spend time in enriched environments that stimulate mental activity. What's more, these scientists have identified a drug that has a similar effect. It appears to promote gene activity in the brain that is important in memory. These insights may lead to a better understanding of dementia and memory-impairment disorders such as Alzheimer's.
While scientists are yet in the early stages of translating this research in mice into treatments for humans, it's striking that many Alzheimer's sufferers temporarily improve in an activity-rich environment, providing a tantalizing clue to further research and possible therapies.
Click here for a video begins and ends with the case of Tillie, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s. In an assisted living facility, she retreats to her bed. Moved to a more stimulating environment, her outgoing and lively manner re-emerges. The video then shows research indicating that mice placed in enriched environments recover lost memories. Mice had learned to swim to a platform submerged under water. When the mice were given toxic protein, they forgot the location of the platform. After they recovered, the mice got a treat—an enriched environment. They immediately swam to the platform. J. David Sweatt has discovered new ways of understanding how brain cells create memories. A drug developed in Sweatt’s lab improved memory and awaits testing with human participants.