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Hundreds of dietary supplements have been reported to improve cognitive and emotional function in humans, but few have scientific foundation. A new study from the Department of Physiology, Anatomy & Genetics (DPAG) provides fresh insight into how dietary magnesium supplementation can influence memory performance.

Fluorescent close up of the fly brain showing that a key magnesium transporter dominates the neurons involved in memory.
The fly CNNM protein (green, shown to cover the entire area) is abundant in memory-relevant neurons in the fly brain

Prior research has shown that supplementing the diet of young and aging rodents with Magnesium improves their memory and it even appears to partially restore memory deficits in animals harbouring models of Alzheimer’s disease. Magnesium may therefore have therapeutic potential for humans with memory issues.

Yanying Wu, a Postdoctoral Fellow in DPAG's Waddell group, first showed that Magnesium feeding also improved memory of fruit flies (Drosophila). According to Professor Scott Waddell: “We reasoned that if Magnesium enhanced fly memory, this would indicate that it is a general feature of memory systems, and would allow us to analyse the underlying biology." Importantly, the memory-enhancing effects of Magnesium appear to involve a different mechanism to that previously proposed in rodents. The Waddell group found that a conserved Magnesium transporter (known as a Cyclin M2 or CNNM protein) was essential for normal and Magnesium-enhanced memory. Magnesium feeding increased the levels of Magnesium in memory-relevant neurons and the CNNM transporter is critical to regulate these elevated levels.

The full story is available on the Department of Physiology, Anatomy & Genetics website

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