Science!: Hobbits and Shambhala

Lauren Admire | 23 Nov 2009 17:00

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotty Mind

Meet Hobbie-J, the world's smartest rat. He can't do your taxes, or solve a Rubik's cube while blindfolded, but he can remember three times more than the average rat, and solve mazes quicker than them, too.

While Hobbie-J was but a wee embryo, researchers from the Medical College of Georgia manipulated it, causing an overexpression of the gene NR2B. NR2B is correlated with the rate at which brain cells communicate and the alteration of this single gene has caused Hobbie-J's brain cells to communicate longer than those of normal rats.

This research was conducted in hopes that the experiments could eventually lead to cures for brain disorders in humans, such as dementia and Alzheimer's.

According to one of the researchers, Joe Tsien, "The research is all very exciting, because it raises the possibility for us to potentially enhance memory in humans, and that is exactly where my lab is going." However, since researchers aren't allowed to genetically alter human embryos, manipulation of the NR2B gene will have to be achieved through drugs. Secondly, uber-memory may not be all its cracked up to be.

According to neuroscientist, Guosong Liu, "There is a reason we forget. We are supposed to leave our bad experiences behind, so they do not haunt us. The danger of extending memory in healthy people could be considerable."

Source: National Geographic

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