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Neuronal structures associated with memory sprout in response to novel molecules

Chemists at the University of California San Diego have designed a set of molecules that promote microscopic, anatomical changes in neurons associated with the formation and retention of memories. These drug candidates also prevent deterioration of the same neuronal structures in the presence of amyloid-beta, a protein fragment that accumulates in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease.

Dendritic Spines Sprout on a Treated Neuron
Tiny thornlike structures along the branches of this neuron are dendritic spines, which form the receiving end of synapses. Treatment with a novel compound induced the cell to sprout 20 to 25 percent more spines than a normal, untreated neuron.
Credit: Jessica Cifelli