Basic and Applied Memory Research: Practical Applications - Vol. 2

By Douglas J. Herrmann; Cathy McEvoy et al. | Go to book overview

CONCLUSIONS

Studies of animal and human memory suggest that drugs that potentiate NMDA receptor activity enhance memory phenomena supported by the hippocampus and related structures in the mesial temporal lobe. Our recent studies with normal elderly adults and Alzheimer patients suggest that these pharmacological agents affect cognitive processes that involve predominantly neocortical regions as well. The semantic memory task involves several subcomponents such as access to conceptual knowledge, access to orthographic or phonetic information, and speech output. Studies employing brain imaging techniques have provided an opportunity to identify the cerebral areas that are involved in these higher-order cognitive processes. Such studies suggest that semantic-lexical processing and generation of words is associated with activation in the left prefrontal cortex ( Frith, Friston, Liddle, & Frackowiak, 1991; Kapur et al., 1994; Petersen, Fox, Posner, Mintun, & Raichle, 1988) and in the posterior and middle temporal regions ( Demonet et al., 1992). In addition, evidence from brain imaging studies and neuropsychological studies suggests that priming phenomena are supported by structures in the temporal, parietal, and occipital regions ( Gabrieli et al., in press; Keane et al., 1991; Squire et al., 1992).

The emerging picture is that potentiation of the NMDA receptor complex may enhance several processes or systems of memory that involve neocortical and subcortical structures. It may prove fruitful to examine the effects of novel drugs on different forms of memory that are impaired with normal and abnormal aging. That complex language and memory functions can be enhanced with drugs that act at the glycine modulatory site on the NMDA receptor holds promise for the treatment of patients with dementia, particularly Alzheimer patients, in whom pharmacotherapy must treat multiple cognitive dysfunctions.


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Our research reported in this chapter was supported by G.D. Searle & Co. We thank John Mastropaolo for his valuable comments.


REFERENCES

Albert, M. S., Heller, H. S., & Milberg, W. ( 1988). "Changes in naming ability with age". Psychology and Aging, 3, 173-178.

Balota, D. A., & Duchek, J. M. ( 1991). "Semantic priming effects, lexical repetition effects, and contextual disambiguation effects in healthy aged individuals and individuals with senile dementia of the Alzheimer type". Brain and Language, 40, 181-201.

Bartus, R. T. ( 1986). "Drugs to treat age-related cognitive disorders: On the threshold of a new era in the pharmaceutical industry". In T. Crook, R. T. Bartus, S. Ferris, & S. Gershon (Eds.),

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