Scientists finally found a supplement that can actually help protect the memory, and it turns out that it was hiding in plain sight all along. The supplement in question is melatonin, the very same so many people take every night to improve their sleep. It turns out that the supplement can protect the brain from cognitive decline according to researchers from Tokyo Medical and Dental University (TMDU).
The research regarding melatonin’s memory-boosting potential was published in the Journal of Pineal Research in October of 2020. The study in question was led by Atsuhiko Hattori at TMDU in Japan, and it suggests that melatonin and two of its metabolites have a profound impact - they help the brain hang onto memories - which means that it can potentially protect patients from cognitive decline.
Now, the study was conducted on an animal model, namely mice, but the researchers are confident that future human trials will showcase that the same is true for the human brain. The study was conducted by comparing the formation of long-term memory in young, middle-aged, and older mice.
The Study Explained
The simplest way to test memory in mice is by letting the rodents examine unfamiliar objects. Mice have a natural propensity towards inspecting new objects, and not unlike humans, they are always more curious about the new thing than they are about familiar objects. The catch is that, in order for an object to be familiar, it needs to be remembered. And young mice are exceptionally apt at recognizing familiar objects: showing an object 3 times a day is usually enough for them to remember it the next day.
Older mice, on the other hand, often have difficulties remembering familiar objects, which is considered a sign of cognitive decline. When given the same task, the waning memory of older mice becomes apparent, as they spend just as much time examining familiar objects as they do checking out new items, as if both objects were new to them. This is the point in the study that the researchers introduced half of all the mice across all age groups to melatonin and 2 of its metabolites - the substances that form when melatonin is broken down by the body.
As Hattori explains, “We know that melatonin is converted into N1-acetyl-N2-formyl-5-methoxykynuramine (AFMK) and N1-acetyl-5-methoxykynuramine (AMK) in the brain, and we suspected that they might promote cognition”.
After just 4 days of observation, the researchers noticed that the memory of all mice improved dramatically. The melatonin metabolite AMK was found to be the most effective. The researchers also pointed out that melatonin and its metabolites were all accumulated in the hippocampus, a brain region that is responsible for turning everyday experiences into long-term memories.
The findings in the older mice are the most exciting - only 1 dose of AMK administered after a lone exposure to new items helped them remember the objects even 4 days later. As the lead author pointed out, “Its effect on older mice is particularly encouraging and we are hopeful that future studies will show similar effects in older people. If this happens, AMK therapy could eventually be used to reduce the severity of Mild Cognitive Impairment and its potential conversion to Alzheimer’s disease.”
If the study will be successfully replicated in humans, this could mean that an AMK or melatonin supplement can be taken as a preventative measure against cognitive decline, dementia, and Alzheimer’s. Stick around for any further news on the topic, we will keep you posted.
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