The love hormone can bring back memories to Alzheimer's patients

Deterioration of memory and loss of learning ability are key signs of Alzheimer's disease. These symptoms were found due to the accumulation of a toxic beta-amyloid protein in the brain. This substance disrupts the transmission of signals between neurons, which affects the neuroplasticity, i.e., the ability of the brain to adapt to new conditions, to form neural connections in which experience is recorded. As a result, a person first loses the ability to assimilate new information and then begins to lose the previous knowledge and skills. Scientists at the University of Tokyo have found that oxytocin helps slow down or stop this process. 

Oxytocin is produced in the hypothalamus and is called the hormone of love, tenderness, and affection. Elevated levels of oxytocin are recorded in breastfeeding women, spouses in a long trustful relationships. Previously, it has been proven that increased oxytocin levels improve cognitive abilities. Experts from Tokyo decided to find out how this hormone affects the neurons affected by beta-amyloid. For the experiment, scientists took mice with brain lesions similar to Alzheimer's in humans. It turned out that under the influence of the love hormone in animals recover lost interneuronal connections and restore neuroplasticity.

By conducting a series of experiments, scientists were able to better understand the mechanism of the positive effects of oxytocin on the brain. This hormone activates chemical processes (e.g., the influx of calcium ions), which are important for strengthening the signal between neurons and memory formation. The beta-amyloid that accumulates in Alzheimer's has the opposite effect by inhibiting these chemical processes. The injection of oxytocin helps to restore the flow of these chemical reactions, improving neuroplasticity, and positively affecting memory. 

- It's the world's first study to show that oxytocin can repair beta-amyloid-induced abnormalities," said one of its authors, Professor Akiyoshi Saito. - This is only the first step, and we still have to do research on animal models and then on humans before enough information is available to create an oxytocin-based cure for Alzheimer's disease. 

July 22, 2020, 10:56 a.m.

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