Up@dawn 2.0

Monday, February 23, 2015

Memory Enhancement

Our group chose to discuss the topic of memory enhancement. Memory loss is something that most people are familiar with, especially when it comes to Alzheimer's disease. Something like memory enhancement could benefit people suffering from this disease and help them to spend the rest of their lives comfortably. Memory loss can be stressful and terrifying for the people suffering from it, and damaging to the families who have loved ones suffering from it as well. Online, it is suggested that people stay mentally sharp and and stimulate themselves intellectually. One of the tools that people can use to exercise their brains is also one of my favorite puzzle-based video game series: Professor Layton.



  1. For our project, I am going to be focusing on potential negative implications of various forms of memory enhancers. This ranges from aromatic enhancers such as getting a boost in acetylcholine levels when you smell rosemary leaf, or nootropic drugs that usually act in the form of acetylcholinesterase inhibitors, or NMDA /glutamate antagonists. When using something like an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor on a chronic basis, as opposed to the appropriate cycle for your dosage, you run the risk of downregulating the production of acetylcholine. The hippocampus is rich in acetylcholine receptors- acetylcholine plays a vital role in learning and memory. If you downregulate your acetylcholine production then you have less, meaning potential impairments with regard to learning. Anyways, that is just one way memory enhancers can go afoul in the midst of such hope. I will go into more detail in the presentation.

    1. I thought I could go back and edit posts, but alas I cannot. So to continue my 250 word response on my responsibility for the project, here is Part 2:

      While we don't even have tests to accurately measure neurotransmitter levels and "imbalances", we are taking pills to defy the effects of aging. However, these pills are not necessarily pills anymore and so our toolbox for memory enhancement has grown very wide. In light of this expansion, less research is done on ever-progressing area of nootropic, or cognitive enhancing, drugs. By drugs, I don't mean what is normally perceived by the term. A very common acetylcholinesterase inhibitor is a chinese club moss named huperzine a (hooper-zine). Put simply, this moss inhibits the acetylcholine molecules after they have served their duty at the post-synaptic AcH receptors from leaving the cell cycle- rather the acetylcholine is cycled back through as the acetylcholinesterase can not 'erase' the acetylcholine due to it's inhibition from the moss. When you have a flood of acetylcholine that is abnormal to the brain and occurring without pause for the brain to reach it's natural homeostasis, our brain figures we are producing too much and so it reduces it's level of acetylcholine production. This is because we have natural homeostatic mechanisms that seek out imbalances and seek to fix them through producing or secreting more of something. I will make a follow-up post later on.

  2. Memory enhancement concluding summary
    The usage of memory enhancement can be very beneficial for patients with a degenerative neurological disease such as Alzheimer's disease. Moreover, the possibility for some people of losing their ability of memorizing their life routines can be very overwhelming causing them to have stressful life. However, there many ways to enhance memory. First, the usage of games and puzzles that stimulate the brain to be more focused and sharped by enabling the neurons to form strong connections, and this will ensure that responses and memory are very quick. For example, Professor Layton and lumosity which are programs that train our brains to form a strong neural connections. Also, some of the games that challenge your working memory and mental agility can be an important part of your plan of improving intelligence in addition to memory. Also, the usage of drugs that enhance the ability of the brains to obtain a surplus of neurotransmitters that enable our neurons are establishing connections and making our memory stronger. Many of these drugs work on the neurotransmitter acetylcholine which plays a major rule in the forming of the memory inside the hippocampus of the brain. On the other hand, many research studies found that these drug that helps retain high level acetylcholine can cause the human brain produce less amounts of the neurotransmitter which will mess up the homeostatic environment of the brain. As result, this could have a harmful side effects on the individual taking the drug and his family. Awad Ghobrial

  3. Intro / History: Attempting to improve one’s memory can be traced all the way back to the ancient Greek period. The Greeks worshiped memory and anyone of higher power had a very excellent memory. These people did not have computers and such to rely on; therefore they had to memorized large amounts of information themselves. They did this by devising a technique known as the link system which connected memories to their imagination. They would use their imagination to devise a story to link pictures to lists of things. Let’s say one wanted to remember a kite, some scissors, and a shark. Using this method, one would then devise a story of someone who was flying a kite on a beach, got nipped at by a crab whose claws resembled scissors, and saw a shark in the distance waters. The Romans used a technique called the room system. When trying to memorize a list of things, one would imagine a room that he or she is familiar with and picture placing the items on the list at various points in the room. After the Roman Empire fell methods for memory enhancement faded, until the 13th century when a man known as Ramon Lull developed a method that he believed improved memory. His method consisted of two parts. Part one included medicine that he himself didn’t recommend. What medicines he intended are unknown to us today. The second part involved frequent meditating upon something that one wanted to remember. Or in today’s language: repetition. Lull wrote a book titled “The Book of the Seven Planets,” however this book has been lost throughout time. His methods are not well known due to this loss, but the number seven is repeated and seemingly important to Lull. Psychologist today now know that the number seven is very important in memory because it is the most “bits” of information one can store in their short term memory. In today’s society however, people look toward the use of medicine in improving memory, which is what the rest of the presentation will be focused on.

  4. For my part in our exploration of memory enhancement, I chose to discuss current clinical research in this area. Through my research, I identified three clinical research programs currently investigating strategies for enhancing memory in three vulnerable populations of patients: those with developmental disabilities, Alzheimer’s patients, and military personnel. I also reflected on important ethical considerations for evaluating current and future research. When evaluating clinical research, it is important to consider several key points. First of all, what preclinical work has been done to answer this question? How strong is the rationale to support the proposed research? Secondly, do the potential risks outweigh potential benefits? Thirdly, what kind of informed consent procedures will be in place?

    Nicotine Treatment of Cognitive Decline in Down Syndrome
    More than 50% of people with Down syndrome develop Alzheimer’s disease by age 60. One study currently in recruitment phase will investigate the hypothesis that low to moderate doses of nicotine improves cognition and may even be neuroprotective for people with DS. Although people often associate nicotine with the negative health effects of smoking, substantial research indicates that nicotinic receptors play a role in cognition and memory. Special care must be taken to ensure that participants in the DS trial understand and consent to the research taking place.

    Deep Brain Stimulation for Alzheimer’s disease
    There are several Phase I and II clinical trials in progress to investigate deep brain stimulation to improve cognition and possibly prevent further cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s disease. Participants in these trials may have no more than moderate cognitive impairment. Thus they are still able to give fully informed and competent consent, as opposed to patients with advanced Alzheimer’s.

    Deep Brain Stimulation for Memory Loss in Traumatic Brain Injury
    Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is sponsoring a research program called Retrieving Active Memory (RAM), which will attempt to develop a deep brain stimulation device that allows recovery of memories lost to traumatic brain injury (TBI). Although deep brain stimulation has been used to successfully treat Parkinson’s disease, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, it has never been used in TBI patients. Although this research has the potential to greatly improve quality of life for many veterans suffering from TBI, care must be taken to ensure veterans do not feel undue pressure to take part in the research.

    I enjoyed learning about clinical research in progress to address memory impairment and evaluating several studies from an ethical perspective.