Vascular drug improves learning, memory in ageing rats

February 2nd, 2009 - 4:32 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Feb 2 (IANS) A drug used in treating vascular problems also improves spatial learning and working memory in middle-aged rats, according to a team of psychologists, geneticists and neuroscientists.The finding supports the scientific quest for a substance that could treat progressive cognitive (brain related) impairment, cushion the cognitive impact of normal ageing, or even enhance learning and memory throughout the life span.

The drug Fasudil, has been used for more than 10 years to treat vascular problems in the brain, often helping with recovery from stroke.

Researchers injected hydroxyfasudil, the active form of Fasudil, into middle-aged (17-18 months old) male rats daily starting four days before behavioural testing and continuing throughout testing. Injection made it easy to give the drug to rats, but people take it in pill form.

Rats were tested on the water radial-arm maze, which assessed how well they remembered which of the radiating arms had a reward, a sign of accurate spatial learning and working memory.

Rats given a high dose of hydroxyfasudil successfully remembered more items of information than those given a low dose. Both dosed groups performed significantly better than control-group rats given saline solution.

On this same test, the high-dose group showed the best learning (fewest total errors) and best working memory (measured two different ways).

For every test of learning, the scores of the low-dose group fell between the scores of the no-dose and high-dose groups, meaning that learning and memory boosts depended on the size of the dose.

Hydroxyfasudil’s parent drug, Fasudil, is known to protect the brain by dilating blood vessels when blood flow is curtailed, said a release of the American Psychological Association (APA).

The finding will appear in the February issue of Behavioural Neuroscience, published by the APA.

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