We all know that human memory can deteriorate with age, leading to "senior moments" of forgetfulness. In fact, other primates suffer age-related memory loss for the same biological reasons that people do. That's why a study published today in Nature showing that an FDA-approved hypertension medication can aid memory in older macaques isn't just monkey business: It's human business, too.
As detailed in a piece from TIME Healthland, Yale researchers administered memory tests to macaque monkeys before and after giving them a generic hypertention drug called guanfacine.
Guanfacine doesn't just lower blood pressure: It also activates norepinephrine receptors in the brain. Norepinephrine is a chemical that plays a crucial role in attention and memory. As monkeys and people grow older, the number of norepinephrine receptors in their brains decreases. These receptors can also control levels of another chemical, cyclic-AMP (or cAMP), and high levels of cAMP in the prefrontal cortex can alter neurons' ability to communicate with other neurons - rendering them unable to store information in the form of memories.
In the study, the researchers noticed that older monkeys' performance on the memory exercises improved after they were given guanfacine. The drug, which also exists in an extended-release form intended to treat ADHD, is now being tested in a clinical trial to see whether it could be used to combat age-related memory loss in elderly humans.
Previously: Stanford biostatistician talks about saving your aging brain and Does the brain retire at retirement?
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