(Inside Science TV) -- The human brain is the central command center for the entire body. It controls our thoughts, drives our emotions and stores our memories. But as we age, our brain changes and so does its ability to function and recall memories.
Cristina Banuelos, a neuroscientist at the University of Florida in Gainesville, said that as adults age, they tend to lose their "working memory" – the type of memory responsible for holding information for short periods of time.
“For example, if you are ordering a pizza and you are looking at the number for Domino's, and the time it takes you to look at a phone number and actually make the phone call, you are engaging your working memory,” explained Banuelos.
In a study, researchers found older rats performed worse on working memory tests. The aged animals also had higher levels of a neuro-receptor known as GABA in their brains.
Normal levels of GABA help the brain maintain optimal levels of efficiency by slowing down brain activity when it becomes too active. But, elevated levels of GABA, like those seen in aging brains, can slow down the brain too much and inhibit brain function.
Banuelos said that, “Aged rats are significantly impaired compared to young.”
When scientists gave the aged rats an injectable drug to block GABA receptors, their working memory was restored to the same level as the young rats.
“I think it definitely identifies this receptor as a possible therapeutic target for improving working memory in aging," remarked Banuelos.
The new drug could one day be used in humans to improve memories.
Scientists are now working with pharmacologists to develop a drug that can be given orally. They hope to test the drugs in animals and eventually humans.