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Sleeping pills may have a major effect on your memory, study finds

[Aug. 23, 2023: Staff Writer, The Brighter Side of News]

Breathing woman
New groundbreaking research uncovers how our breathing patterns can either augment or impair our ability to form memories. (CREDIT: Creative Commons)

In the vast world of sleep aids, melatonin has always been a go-to for many. While its primary purpose is to assist in regulating the sleep-wake cycle, there's been ongoing debate regarding its efficacy and potential side effects.

Some individuals report feeling groggy the next morning after taking melatonin. But what if the effects of melatonin were to extend far beyond just sleep regulation? What if this common supplement, often disregarded as a mere sleep aid, played a vital role in memory enhancement?


A groundbreaking study from Sophia University in Tokyo, Japan, may have just uncovered the intricate connections between melatonin and its influence on memory at a molecular level. The research, led by Atsuhiko Chiba, not only delved into melatonin but also its derivatives and their profound effects on memory formation.

“Our study aimed to investigate the effects of melatonin, ramelteon, and N1-acetyl-5-methoxyquinuramine (AMK) on the relative phosphorylation levels of memory-related proteins to explore candidate signaling pathways associated with the receptor- and nonreceptor-mediated memory-enhancing effects of melatonin," Chiba commented.


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Melatonin and its Derivatives: A Closer Look

Memory formation, a critical aspect of our cognitive function, is closely linked with certain biochemical processes. One such crucial process is the phosphorylation of memory-related proteins. To break it down simply, phosphorylation is the addition of phosphate groups to protein structures, a change that can significantly affect a protein's activity.

This study took a deeper dive into the effects of melatonin and its derivatives on proteins pivotal to memory, including the protein extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK), calcium/calmodulin-dependent kinase IIα (CaMKIIα), CaMKIIβ, CaMKIV, and the cAMP-response element binding protein (CREB).


The derivatives in question are N1-acetyl-5-methoxyquinuramine (AMK), a biological metabolite of melatonin, and ramelteon, a drug that works by binding and activating the melatonin receptor. By studying the influence of these compounds on the phosphorylation levels of these memory-associated proteins, the researchers aimed to shed light on how melatonin might impact memory formation.

Can’t sleep? Melatonin supplements may help. (CREDIT: Marc Tran/Stocksy)

Findings: A Surprising Connection

Chiba's team's findings were nothing short of revolutionary. The results suggest that melatonin plays a significant part in the creation of long-term memories.


"Our findings suggest that melatonin is involved in promoting the formation of long-term object recognition memory by modulating the phosphorylation levels of memory-related proteins such as ERK, CaMKIIs, and CREB in both receptor-mediated and nonreceptor-mediated signaling pathways," stated Chiba.

Signaling cascade of CREB. Adenylate cyclase (AC) activated upon stimulation of cellular G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCR) by neurotransmitters increases cAMP levels, (CREDIT: Frontiers)

The ramifications of this study could be monumental, particularly in the context of an aging global population facing age-related memory impairments. The potential development of drugs that could boost memory function using the principles uncovered in this study could be transformative for millions of people worldwide.


A Future Bright with Possibilities

The team's enthusiasm is palpable, and they remain hopeful about the potential applications of their findings. If melatonin can play a part in the formulation of new drugs or therapies to combat age-related memory decline, it would indeed be a pivotal advancement in medical science.

Potential factors mediating melatonin-induced adult neurogenesis. Melatonin stimulates adult neurogenesis by upregulating neurotrophic factors and transcription factor network. By regulating βAPP metabolism, metabolic homeostasis, stimulating anti-apoptotic and down regulating pro-apoptotic genes, melatonin boosts neurogenesis thus enhancing overall memory and cognitive functions. (CREDIT: Melatonin Research)

While this is just the beginning, the global community waits with bated breath for further advancements in this direction. Perhaps, as the findings suggest, it might be the right moment to reconsider the role of melatonin in our lives.


Could it be more than just a sleep supplement? Only time will tell. For now, though, don't be surprised if you find melatonin gummies flying off the shelves.

For more science news stories check out our New Discoveries section at The Brighter Side of News.


Note: Materials provided above by The Brighter Side of News. Content may be edited for style and length.


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