MONDAY, April 30, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- The cholesterol-lowering statin drug simvastatin (brand name Zocor) boosted memory in mice genetically bred to have an Alzheimer's-like disease, according to a new study.
While the drug boosted the mice's spatial memory -- helping them navigate a water maze -- male mice showed the most improvement, according to Dr. H.A. Morcos, chair of pharmacology at the University of Antigua, and colleagues at Florida A&M University.
Morcos was expected to present the findings April 30 at the Experimental Biology meeting in Washington, D.C. The study was funded by Florida A&M University.
Previous studies have found evidence of an association between memory deficits and high levels of cholesterol in the brain.
This new study found that mice treated with simvastatin had significantly higher levels of nNOS (neuronal nitric oxide synthase) in two brain regions, the hippocampus and cortex, compared to mice that did not receive the drug.
The researchers noted that nNOS is responsible for the release of nitric oxide, which causes dilation of blood vessels in the brain and improved blood flow/circulation. The study findings suggest that increases in nNOS levels may be an important factor in how statins improve spatial memory.
The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about Alzheimer's disease.