In the growing field of cosmetic neurology, an approach that seeks to enhance the brain’s workings, one branch seeks to develop new drugs that not only help those suffering from memory disorders such as dementia. The question is, if it works in these patients, how would it work in healthy individuals? Several studies on both humans and other primates and mammals now show that our memories CAN be enhanced through pharmacological interventions.
So, now it can be done. Question is: should we do it? I think your answer partially depends on how you view how our brains are constructed and how they work. It seems to me that most people think that the brain (our mind) is more or less are naturally given, and highly adaptive mechanisms. To a certain extent, this is true. However, as Martin’s piece on Dehaene‘s showed, the brain is not a perfect machinery but has inherent and many flaws and shortcomings. memory is a good example. How often have you tried to remember the name of a person standing in front of you — remembering YOUR name? Or where your put your keys? Simple examples, yes. But they show that our memory is not perfect, at least not as perfect as we’d want it to be (sometimes). Just think of that 8-hours exam you read up to, just for sitting there trying to remember a piece of vital information for a key question.
So are there any memory pills out there? The piece below discusses how Targacept works on the nicotine receptor. To know a bit more on one role of this receptor system, you may also read Nancy Woolf’s article in Science & Consciousness Review.
Targacept compounds show long-lasting improvement in cognition
Winston-Salem, NC, June 30, 2005 – In a review of research to be published in the July issue of Trends In Pharmacological Sciences, Targacept compounds were reported to have a beneficial effect on cognition well after they were no longer present in the central nervous system. For example, in preclinical animal studies, Targacept’s compounds TC-1827 and TC-1734 improved cognitive performance for up to 15 and 18 hours, respectively, though the compounds were appreciably metabolized and eliminated in less than an hour.
The authors postulate that the compounds’ long duration of effect arises from their ability to normalize levels of acetylcholine, a key neurotransmitter for modulating cognition. This mechanism of action contrasts with currently marketed drugs for conditions marked by impaired learning and/or memory, which can increase, but not normalize, neurotransmitters involved in cognitive processing.
Read more at Targacept.com