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Drug enhances neurotransmitter linked to learning


Narrator:       This is Science Today. Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that signals neurons to communicate with each other and has been found to promote changes in the brain associated with learning. Michael Silver, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley's School of Optometry and the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute, found that Donepezil, a drug used to treat patients with Alzheimer's disease, boosts the function of acetylcholine in the brains of healthy adults. Silver explains that subjects took Donepezil while performing a visual task on a computer.

Silver:            The amount of learning almost doubled in the subjects under the influence of the drug versus the same kind of training procedure under placebo.

Narrator:       Silver and his colleagues are using functional magnetic resonance imaging to non-invasively measure changes in brain activity in subjects before and after this training procedure.

Silver:            So, that's the next main direction. We want to understand exactly what specific parts of the brain are involved and how the drug is benefiting the changes in these parts of the brain.

Narrator:       For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.