July 31, 2003
Aged Mice Brains Can Be Boosted To More Youthful Levels

Down-regulating a single gene in aged mice boosted their mental functioning to be more like younger mice.

All of us experience a successive decline in learning and memory capacities with ageing. In the course of their investigations of the neurophysiological basis of this decline, Thomas Blank, Ingrid Nijholt, Min-Jeong Kye, Jelena Radulovic, and Joachim Spiess from the Max Planck Institute for Experimental Medicine in Göttingen have obtained new insight into the mechanisms of age-related learning deficits in the mouse model. In experiments with mice, the Max Planck researchers were able to revert the observed age-related learning and memory deficits by down-regulation of calcium-activated potassium channels (SK3) located in the hippocampus, a brain region recognized to be important for learning and memory. The researchers published their results as a Brief Communication in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

This brings up the obvious question: If the human equivalent of the SK3 gene could be down-regulated would old minds regain some of their lost youthful ability? It may not be that easy because the amount of calcium-activated potassium channels in aged human minds might be higher in order to compensate for some other change caused by aging.

A different research team has just published a paper showing that just as humans have a measure of general intelligence called 'g' mice have their own measurable 'g' for general intelligence.

Mice have a version of 'g', according to a team led by Louis Matzel of Rutgers University in Piscataway, New Jersey1. Animals that come top in one learning test often score better on others, they found: a maze champion might be a sniffing sensation too. "Once in a while you come across one that's absolutely stunning," says Matzel.

Both of these results are important because it is a lot easier to do work on mice than on humans. The latter result is particularly interesting because genes that have variations that affect mouse intelligence may turn out to have equivalents in humans that also have variations that affect intelligence in humans.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2003 July 31 11:08 PM  Brain Enhancement


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