Welcome to our web site which is dedicated to dependency treatments, research and education. On this site you will find summaries of research articles, lectures and conferences from Dr Andrew Byrne and his colleagues. 75 Redfern St, Redfern, Australia. Phone 9319 5524
13 May 2018
Dr Kandel on memory loss in the elderly.
April 12 2018
The Eric Simon Lecture in
Basic & Translational Neuroscience
Eric R. Kandel, MD
University Professor and Fred
Department of Neuroscience
Howard Hughes Medical
Smilow Seminar Room
I had been invited by
Addiction Textbook editor Dr Joyce Lowinson to a talk by Nobel Laureate Eric
Kandel on memory loss in the elderly.His
Nobel Prize in 2002 was for work on snails and the laying down of short and long
term memory in brain cells.I sat in the
front row next to a doctor from Bellevue Hospital where some of the rat experiments
quoted by Prof Kandel had been done.The
speaker was introduced by Dr Eric Simon who was honoured by this annual address
and who was the first to name endogenous endorphins in the human brain.
The initial point of the talk
was to emphasise the important differences between Alzheimer’s disease and
‘benign senescent memory loss’.The
latter had first been described (allegedly) by a member of the audience and is a
well known syndrome.A side point was
made that despite modern publications needing 20 or more pages plus appendices,
Crick and Watson’s paper reporting the double helix was only 3 pages long.And Sigmund Freud wrote some critical papers
of a similar length.Dr Kandel reported
being at James Watson’s 90th birthday the week before.We were indeed in the presence of
greatness!I might add that Dr McBride’s
report of thalidomide consequences was less than half a page in Lancet.
The most important message of
the talk was that rodent experiments had confirmed the difference between
modest memory loss due to age and Alzheimer’s Disease with amyloid build-ups,
tangles and other typical pathological findings which can be induced in rats.Dr Kandel’s main finding was that high levels
of ‘osteocalcin’ were associated with benefits in retaining memory functions,
even into old age (which for rats is 18 to 24 months).It seems that this hormone is produced in
osteoclasts mostly in bone but also in the circulating blood stream.He also described on a specific haplotype
which was apparently associated with low level of osteocalcin and a propensity
to significant memory less.
Over the past five years of
research Dr Kandel found that the best way to elevate osteocalcin levels is to
exercise to the level of walking about 3 kilometres every day (for a human –
most of his experiments so far have been with rats).There are numerous other benefits of walking
for the heart, blood pressure, stress levels, etc, etc.
There was a wide ranging and
lively Q&A session after the presentation. An audience member asked if swimming
was as good as walking but we were told that since one is weightless it is
probably less effective on the bones producing osteocalcin … also, “one could
drown” (a comic interjection from an Israeli colleague in the audience – to
which the speaker quipped “you Israelis are always worried about existential
threats”).I asked Dr Kandel if taking
exogenous osteocalcin would do the same as exercise.Some enterprising audience members had
already searched for supplies and found some company allegedly selling the
chemical already!This remains to be
trialled, it appears.
My neighbour from Bellevue had
done some rat trials and told me quietly that their rats were very keen on
exercise, running on their treadmills for hours on end, thus improving their
experimental memory scores into ‘old age’ (>18 months for rats).I wanted to ask whether they were in small
cages or ‘rat-park’ enclosures as per Bruce Alexander’s work in Canada but time
ran out and I may never know.
Notes by Andrew Byrne .. visiting addictions
physician from Sydney, Australia.