I was interested to read a special report from the Center for Neuro Skills which describes the latest developments into how the brain registers new memory and equally importantly, how it strengthens older memories.
It has been known for years that the so-called NMDA receptor – a lock on the skin of the nerve cell which is ‘opened’ by a special key – the neurotransmitter glutamate – is involved in new learning and memory.
However this research shows that the way the brain first captures and encodes a situation or event is quite different from how it processes subsequent similar events, and suggests a whole new NMDA-independent system involving the so-called AMPA receptor – a less powerful type of NMDA receptor – involved in strengthening older memories.
Why is this so important?
Well, this new system is known to be critically involved in Alzheimer’s disease and other kinds of brain deficit memory impairment including stroke and head injury.
In fact, you may be interested to know that several drug companies have developed drugs that open the AMPA receptors called ampakines – a class of compounds known to enhance attention span and alertness, and facilitate learning and memory.
Unlike earlier stimulants such as caffeine, methylphenidate (Ritalin), and the amphetamines, ampakines do not seem to have unpleasant, long-lasting side effects such as sleeplessness.
These new memory enhancing drugs will be coming to a pharmacy near you within the next few years!