by Erica Murphy, blogger
As spring break approaches, our semester hits the half-way point. For seniors, their college years are slowly fading; for freshmen, their high school memories are thwarted by rebellious college antics. No one wants his or her college years to be hazy (even that “not a smart idea” year), and freshman will soon realize that high school was pure, easy, carefree bliss. But maybe we won’t have to forget forever.
The New York Times recently reported on a study conducted in New York and Israel. Its goal was to find a way to enhance memory retrieval. Researchers discovered a method that uses brain substances to strengthen memories. They found that injecting an enzyme known to be active in storing memories actually retrieves a memory in long-term storage. This enzyme was first tested on rats, and helped the rats recall a memory they previously learned through the sense of smell.
Six days prior to receiving the enzyme, rats were given a sweet liquid that made them sick. After getting the enzyme, the rats were again given the sweet liquid, but they did not want to drink it.
The researchers believe that what they injected can act on any memory, including human memories, which the brain tries to retrieve while the drug is active. Todd Sacktor, a neuroscientist at Downstate, said in the report that he never imagined anyone would be able to retrieve long-term memories, but now it is possible.
Creating a drug from the enzyme could strongly benefit dementia patients. Previous methods of taking caffeine and nicotine were just temporary solutions. These methods also worked only if taken when the memory was first retrieved. Even though this discovery was a major accomplishment, experts say the risks are still unknown.
Researchers don’t know when a drug with the enzyme will be available for use. It could take years. For us college kids, this means that it might take a while to piece back a 21st birthday weekend or remember a fact for that pesky midterm. In the meantime, try and keep the old methods of memory retrieval to a minimum.