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New therapy could “reawaken” memories in dementia patients, new study suggests

August 1, 2017

A new Alzheimer’s drug could “reawaken” memories after tests showed improved memory recall in mice.

Previous research suggested that the memories of people affected by dementia are permanently destroyed, but scientists now think that diseases such as Alzheimer’s simply make memories more difficult to recall.

The new study, published by the Columbia University in New York, used lasers to look into the brains of mice.

When the brain cells which stored memories were stimulated, mice could recall things they had previously “forgotten”.

“These results indicate that [the memory] still exists and has not degraded, but is difficult to access for memory retrieval or behavioral expression when Alzheimer’s Disease is present,” said the researchers.

“The mice may be recalling an incorrect memory, as the wrong cells – or possibly a new ensemble that may have different mnemonic properties than the original ensemble – are being activated.”

Commenting on the study, Ralph Martins, an Alzheimer’s expert unconnected to the study, said: “It has the potential to lead to novel drug development to help with regaining memories.”

According to Alzheimer’s Society, around one in six people over the age of 80 have dementia. The total number of people diagnosed is expected to rise to two million by 2051.

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