Indian-origin scientist’s find may lead to cognition, mood-improving drugs

April 4th, 2011 - 5:08 pm ICT by ANI  

London, Apr 4 (ANI): An Indian-origin scientist at Columbia University Medical Center and his colleague have developed a new way to stimulate neurogenesis (neuron production) in the adult mouse brain, which may lead to drugs that improve cognition and mood.

Lead authors Amar Sahay and Rene Hen boosted the number of neurons in the hippocampus, an area of the brain involved in memory and mood, and tested the mice in both learning and mood-related tasks, looking for changes in behavior.

They found specific effects on learning tasks that involve a process called pattern separation, which is the ability to distinguish between similar places, events and experiences.

“This process is crucial for learning because it enables us to know whether something is familiar or novel,” said Hen.

“If it is familiar, you move on to the next bit of information; if it’s novel, you want to be able to recognize that it’s new and give it meaning. These mice, with just more adult-born neurons, and no other changes in the brain, basically learn better in tasks where they have to discriminate between similar contexts,” she added.

Pattern separation is not only important for learning; it may also be important for anxiety disorders, including post - traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and panic disorder.

The normal adaptive response, said the researchers, is to separate similar events or experiences.

They said that the genetic strategy used to stimulate neurogenesis in their experiments could be mimicked pharmacologically, potentially leading to the development of new drugs to reverse pattern separation deficits.

The study appears in the advance online publication of Nature. (ANI)

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