When it comes to memory, immune cells are known as the “bad cops” of the brain. But new research shows they could also be turned into “good cops” to power memory and learning.
Inflammation can send the brain’s immune cells into damaging hyperdrive, and this has been linked to neurodegenerative diseases that affect memory, like dementia.
In the new study, researchers at RMIT University found that these same immune cells – known as microglia – can also be activated to have the reverse effect.
When the microglia were altered in rats, their performance in simple memory tasks improved by up to 50%, rather than deteriorating.
While the effect was temporary, the discovery suggests these cells could be targeted in the development of new therapies designed to enhance memory formation, with the hope of preventing cognitive decline as people grow older.
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