Research Links Chemical to Cognition

BALTIMORE, July 31 (UPI) — University of Maryland researchers say discovery of a chemical in the brain that appears to reduce cognition could lead to pills that make people smarter.

The work on kynurenic acid could also be used in the development of treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, The Baltimore Sun reported. But any drugs based on the discovery are years away.


Robert Schwarcz, a professor at the medical school, said he and his colleagues developed mice that had been genetically engineered to have 70 percent less kynurenic and found they were better at finding their way through mazes and performing other cognitive tasks. Scientists have also found high levels of the acid in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s and other diseases that involve the loss of brain function.

The human brain is stimulated to produce the acid when people eat food high in tryptophan, such as turkey.

Schwarcz said his research has mostly focused on helping healthy people function better.

“What happens with diseases would be a major add-on,” he said.

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