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Down’s syndrome, Siberian hamsters and the circadian clock

Posted in Learning disability, Scientific research by Matt at WelcometoIllinois on October 9, 2008

What does this cheeky little fella have to do with Down’s syndrome?

According to this report in Science Daily he – or a number of his fellow Siberian hamsters – have helped biologists at Stanford University to identify that having a fully-functional circadian clock is essential to learning and memory.

According to the report “the finding has implications for diseases that include problems with learning or memory deficits, such as Down syndrome or Alzheimer’s disease”.

The circadian clock, apparently, is the “rhythm that quietly pulses inside us all, guiding our daily cycle from sleep to wakefulness and back to sleep again”.

In other words its our internal body clock – the thing that get completely thrown out of whack when we travel across multiple time zones, resulting in jet lag.

Anyone who’s suffered from jet lag will appreciate the impact it can have on cognitive ability. By messing with the cognitive clocks of Siberian hamsters the Stanford researchers were apparently able to prove that the circadian rhythm is essential to learning and memory.

According to the report researchers “gave the circadian-deficient hamsters a GABA antagonist called pentylenetetrazole, or PTZ”. The result was that “the learning-impaired hamsters caught up with their intact peers to exhibit the same level of learning retention.”

Joining all the dots is the fact that “research on people with Down syndrome has shown that one reason they don’t perform well on cognitive tests is that they grow up with what amounts to an over-inhibited brain” and that previous research involving mice has indicated that PTZ could improve learning and memory in people with Down’s syndrome.


3 Responses

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  1. starrlife said, on October 10, 2008 at 1:52 pm

    Wow. Interesting article and research.

  2. […] quick look at pentylenetetrazole I recently mentioned some research that had indicated that a drug called pentylenetetrazole, or PTZ, could improve […]

  3. […] significant issue was research into learning disability, including the role of Siberian hamsters and the potential role of pentylenetetrazole, or PTZ in improving […]

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