Take a Pill, Reverse Learning Difficulties?

A recent study suggests that a cholesterol-lowering drug may be capable of reversing certain learning disorders.

Wednesday February 1st - 12:00am

Filed Under: ADHD Causes

A popular cholesterol-lowering drug may be capable of reversing certain learning disorders. That's the suggestion of a recent study involving mice that carry a genetic defect called neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1), which causes a chemical imbalance that interferes with brain cells' ability to communicate with each other. Up to half of those with the defect - which occurs in humans as well as in laboratory mice - experience cognitive disabilities, including deficits in memory, motor coordination, and spatial learning.

In the study, conducted at the University of California at Los Angeles, mice given the cholesterol-lowering drug lovastatin showed dramatic improvements in cognitive function, as measured by various tests. In one test, mice given the drug showed a 30-percent improvement in their ability to track a blinking light.

"We think we have a real, fundamental reason to be optimistic," said Alcino Silva, Ph.D., professor of neurobiology, psychiatry, and psychology at the university and the leader of the team that conducted the research. "This is a drug that affects a key learning and memory pathway, and completely rescues the most common genetic cause for learning disabilities."

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has already approved clinical trials of lovastatin on adults and children with learning disabilities.

Silva's study was published in the November 2005 issue of Current Biology.

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