New molecules reverse memory loss in terms of depression, aging

New therapeutic molecules developed in Toronto Addiction and Mental Health Center (CAMHS) show a promise to lose memory loss associated with depression and aging.

These molecules not only improve the symptoms rapidly, but they seem to renew the underlying brain weaknesses, leading to loss of memory in upstream models. These results were presented today at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Annual Meeting in Washington DC.

"There are currently no medicines to deal with cognitive symptoms such as memory loss occurring in depression, other mental illnesses and aging," says Dr. Etienne Sibille, Deputy Director of the Campbell Campbell Research Institute Institute in CAMH and a leading scientist of the study.

What is unique and promising about these results, given the many failures in drug development for mental illnesses, is that the compounds are highly focused on the loss-impaired brain receptors.

It took a series of studies – the latest of which appeared in January 2019 Molecular neuropsychiatry – to achieve this step. First of all, Dr. Sibille and his team have the specific weaknesses for brain cell receptors in the GABA neurotransmitter system. They then pointed out that these weaknesses were likely to cause mood and memory symptoms in depression and age.

The new small molecules were designed to connect and activate this target receptor. The idea was that they would “fix” the therapeutic effect, which would improve the symptoms. The molecules are chemical chemicals of benzodiazepines, a class of anti-anxiety medications and sedative that the GABA system also acts, but are not highly focused.

One dose of these new molecules was administered in forward-looking models of memory loss that stimulate stress. Thirty minutes later, normal memory performance returned, an experiment conducted to reproduce more than 15 times. In another experiment in which rehearsal models were aging, memory refusals were quickly reversed and performance increased to 80 per cent after administration, essentially achieving the levels seen in young people or in more t earliest of adults. This improvement lasted more than two months with daily treatment.

"There seems to be a recurrence of age cells as the same as young brain cells, showing that our novel molecules can change the brain as well as improve symptoms," says Dr. Sibille. He hopes to begin testing the molecules in clinical research in two years. "We have shown that our molecules go into the brain, are safe, they act in target cells and reverse the cognitive deficit associated with memory loss."

If successful, these applications are potentially wide. Not only is there a lack of treatment for cognitive deficits in mental illness, but the brain improvements suggest that the molecules could help prevent memory loss at the beginning of Alzheimer's disease, which could delay t take a start.


For more information: Media contact: Sean Malley, Media Relations, Center for Addiction and Mental Health, 416-595-6015,

The Center for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMHS) is the largest mental health and addiction teaching hospital in Canada and a world-class research center in this area. CAMH combines clinical care, research, education, policy development and health promotion to help change the lives of people affected by mental illness and addiction. CAMH is fully affiliated to the University of Toronto, and is a World Health Organization / World Health Organization Collaborative Center. For more information, follow @CAMHnews and @CAMHResearch on Twitter.

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