Spermidine is a compound found within the body that, in addition to various metabolic purposes, is being looked at as a way to combat or prevent memory decline. A group of researchers from Berlin have found that spermidine is able to avoid certain age-related changes in the synapses and, by extension, potentially help prevent memory impairment from aging and disorders such as dementia.
In Brief: Synapses
A synapse is the space between two neurons where an electrical charge flows. The brain employs synapses for, among other things, memory formation and learning. By studying fruit flies (common model for learning research), it was noted that synapses narrow their operational space with age, and this behavior, in turn, inhibits new memory formation.
As mentioned, the researchers observed that synapses narrowed their spacing with age, and that this was associated with trouble in olfactory (smell) memory. Dietary supplementation with spermidine was found to be able to prevent these changes. In order to demonstrate that the synaptic spacing was indeed connected to the memory decline, the researchers also induced the same age-related changes genetically. These younger, impaired flies saw the same difficulty learning as the older ones, further strengthening the link.
What This Means
The findings open certain avenues for exploring the application of spermidine for addressing memory impairments like those seen in dementia. It is important to remember, however, that there are a number of very important hurdles in the way that need to be cleared. For instance:
- The effect was seen in fruit flies and primarily concerned smell memory; it should go without saying that the response in humans could still be significantly different.
- Delivery methods, side effects, and even basic questions of efficacy still need to be addressed.
- Being able to affect memory formation and learning does not necessarily mean spermidine would be able to affect memory
None of this is meant to dampen excitement, but this sort of context is important. If you come across anyone online trying to sell spermidine as a memory aid, know that the research is way too preliminary to advocate for any human use or even plausible benefit.
Gupta, V., et. al., “Spermidine Suppresses Age-Associated Memory Impairment by Preventing Adverse Increase of Presynaptic Active Zone Size and Release,” PLOS Biology, 2016; http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.1002563.
“Sharpening Your Synapses: Spermidine Reverse Age Related Memory Decline,” Neuroscience News web site, October 3, 2016; http://neurosciencenews.com/spermidine-memory-aging-5178/, last accesed October 4, 2016.