By Will Durnham (for Reuters, April 30, 2007) . . . Neuroscientist Li-Huei Tsai of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said [in a phone interview], "We show, I believe, the first evidence that even if the brain suffered some very severe neurodegeneration and the individual exhibits very severe learning impairment and memory loss, there is still the possibility to improve learning ability and recover to a certain extent lost long-term memories." . . . Tsai and colleagues reported in the journal Nature, the memories probably remained in storage but could not be accessed or retrieved due to the brain damage . . . Previous research has shown that regular mental stimulation such as reading or playing a musical instrument may reduce one's risk for Alzheimer's. And a stimulating environment also has been shown to improve learning in mice. . . . After exploring the biological mechanism behind the improvement in mice placed in [an] enriched environment, the researchers tested on the mice a class of drugs called histone deacetylase, or HDAC, inhibitors.
Memory and learning improved in the mice, similar to improvements caused by environmental stimulation, the researchers said. They said this indicated such drugs represent a potential way to treat people with conditions like Alzheimer's. . . .