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The NARSAD Feed: Fitness and Memory, NARSAD Discovery, and Mental Illness and the Creative Process
In healthy adults, the hippocampus – a part of the brain important to the formation of memories – begins to atrophy around 55 or 60. Now psychologists are suggesting that the hippocampus can be modestly expanded, and memory improved, by nothing more than regular walking.
NARSAD Independent Investigator Christina Alberini, Ph.D., and colleagues have found that a little-known growth factor (IGF-II) significantly boosted retention and prevented forgetting of a fear memory when injected into rats’ memory circuitry during times when memories are malleable. “To our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of potent memory enhancement via a naturally occurring factor that readily passes through the blood-brain barrier – and thus may hold promise for treatment development,” Dr. Alberini explained.
Science has puzzled to explain it. One recent study found similar brain patterns in artists at work to those of schizophrenics. Another study found that graduates who described themselves as creative share more personality traits with bipolar patients than less creative ones. As far back as the mid 1800s, Emily Dickinson stated that “much madness is Divinest sense” and Edgar Allan Poe questioned “whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence.” So what is it about poetry that seems to attract those more likely to suffer from a brain and behavior disorder?
Smoking marijuana has been linked with an increased risk of mental illness, and now researchers say that when pot smokers do become mentally ill, the disease starts earlier than it would if they didn’t smoke pot.
by Barbara Wheeler, NARSAD manager of communications and media relations