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March 19, 2010

Is a pill coming that will help language learning ability?

brainimage.jpegSheryl Smith, Professor of Physiology and Pharmacology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, has shown in a paper published in Science that a novel brain receptor emerges at puberty in the part of the brain that controls learning and memory. Before puberty, expression of this receptor is low and the ability to learn languages and some spatial skills such as computer game operation, is optimal. However, at puberty, increases in this receptor impair learning.

Dr. Smith has shown that this learning deficit in puberty can be reversed by a stress steroid. She says: 'These findings suggest that intrinsic brain mechanisms alter learning during adolescence, but that mild stress may be one factor that can reverse this decline in learning proficiency during the teenage years ..... And it is within the realm of possibility that a drug could be developed that would increase learning ability post-puberty.'

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