According to a recent study, methylene blue, a drug used to treat a blood disorder, has shown positive results regarding short-term memory and attention. Patients’ response was evaluated by MRI before and after the methylene blue dose, and the results were promising.
Methylene blue is a drug used in clinics for more than 100 years, and it is known for treating methemoglobinemia, a blood disorder. This type of blood condition consists of the production of an abnormal amount of methemoglobin, which is a form of hemoglobin.
Hemoglobins carry and distribute oxygen to the body, but when a person has methemoglobinemia, hemoglobins can only carry oxygen, but they cannot deliver it to the body tissues, Medline Plus explains.
During animal tests, methylene blue has been useful with ischemic strokes, traumatic brain injuries and Alzheimer’s disease. A single dose of Methylene blue was used, and it showed an improvement in long-term contextual memory and extinction memory. Long term contextual memory is the conscious recall of the source and circumstances of a particular memory, and extinction memory is a process in which a conditioned response from stimuli that is gradually reduced over time, Science Daily reports.
It was also found during animal testing that small doses of methylene blue increases the need of brain glucose, oxygen consumption and revealed responses in the rat brain.
Dr. Duong said that the memory-enhancing effects of methylene blue were known in the 1970s, but the neuronal changes in the brain responsible for memory improvement and the effects of this drug on short-term and sustained attention tasks had not been investigated. Until now.
— ScienceDaily (@ScienceDaily) June 28, 2016
The purpose of the human trials is to use functional MRI to see the efficacy of Methylene on cognitive and physiological measures in the human brain.
For the research, 26 healthy participants, between the ages of 22-62, participated in a randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial to study the effects of methylene blue on the brain, while performing working memory and sustained attention tasks.
The patients received small doses of methylene blue or a placebo
To assess the potential effects of both methylene and the placebo, the participants underwent functional MRI before consuming the drugs and an hour after taking it. The mean cerebral blood flow was also evaluated, and it was measured pre- and post- intervention, according to Science Daily.
As part of the results, methylene blue was linked to a 7 percent increase in correct responses during memory retrieval tasks.
The MRIs scans showed increased responses during short-term memory tasks involving the brain’s prefrontal cortex (which controls the processing of memories), the parietal lobe, (associated with the processing of sensory information), and the occipital cortex, (which is the visual processing center of the brain).
According to the Radiological Society of North America, Dr. Timothy Duong said the results supported the notion that methylene blue enhances memory performance and functional MRI activity brain regions related to a visuospatial short-term memory task.
He added that the study provides a neuroimaging foundation to continue clinical trials of the drug in patients of healthy aging and with those with cognitive impairment, dementia, or other conditions that may show a positive response from methylene blue-induced memory enhancement.
The findings suggest that after a single oral low dose of methylene blue can regulate certain brain networks associated with sustained attention and short-term.
Methylene blue is easily accessed and cheap, but according to U.S. News, Dr. Duong says that at this point, no one is suggesting the drug is ready to be used for preventing or treating memory decline.
— bluebrainboost (@bluebrainboost) June 28, 2016
The FDA has grandfathered methylene blue
Methylene blue can cause severe reactions when interacting with certain psychiatric medications. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) received reports of serious central nervous system reactions when the drug methylene blue is consumed by patients that are also taking psychiatric medications that work through the serotonin system of the brain.
The mechanism of the drug interaction is unknown; it is believed that when methylene blue is given to patients that are taking serotonergic psychiatric medications, high levels of serotonin are created in the brain, causing toxicity.
This phenomenon is referred to as Serotonin Syndrome. The symptoms include confusion, hyperactivity, memory problems, muscle twitching, excessive sweating, shivering or shaking, diarrhea, trouble with coordination and, or, fever, the FDA reports. It’s worth mentioning that methylene blue is not an FDA-approved drug.
Source: Science Daily