Scientists Using Sea Slugs To Study Human Memory - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Scientists Using Sea Slugs To Study Human Memory

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HOUSTON (Ivanhoe Newswire) – A sea slug is helping researchers understand how memories in are recorded and stored in the brain.

From what you eat, to strokes you don't even know are happening, there are things that could be hurting your memory.

It's a simple, but memorable creature.

"I've been working with these for about 30 years," John "Jack" Byrne, Ph.D, neuroscientist at UT Health Science Center at Houston told Ivanhoe.

The sea slug is helping Dr. Byrne study how memory works. The sea slug learns to associate food with touch. So after being hand-fed, when anything hits its lips it will start to bite in response. The idea is to find out what genes and proteins are involved in the memory and learning processes.

"We can apply that knowledge to help individuals that have learning disabilities," Dr. Byrne said.

As the doctor tries to help our brains, you could be hurting yours. A UCLA study found sugar could decrease brain activity. Mice given sugar had a harder time getting through a maze than mice given sugar and omega-3s, found in things like walnuts, salmon, and soybeans. Adding omega-3s to your diet could protect you from sugar's bad side effects.

Gum could be bad or good for your grey matter. A recent study out of Cardiff University says chewing it hurt people's short-term memory when they tried to recall lists of words and numbers. Other studies say it helps your brain, including one that showed people who chewed gum outperformed non-chewers in memory exercises.

Neurologist Paul Schulz says small silent strokes that go un-noticed can affect memory and attention span. He treated one woman who had hundreds.

"The majority of people I've seen who attention changes have related to strokes have no idea they've had a stroke," says Schul, who also works at UT Health Science Center at Houston.

A Harvard report says you could lower your risk of silent strokes by controlling blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol, keeping a healthy weight, not smoking, and managing atrial fibrillation - helping your brain keep from becoming sluggish.

Low-carb diets could also be draining your brain. In 2008, a small study found women who eliminated carbs from their diets had a decline in cognitive skills, especially on memory tests. Instead of wiping out carbs to lose weight, eat healthy carbs found in foods like fruits, grains, and nuts.

For additional research on this article, click here.

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