Science & Technology

Real Flowers for Algernon


Under the headline "Retarded mice get smarter with drug," this awesome news:

Lab mice with the mental retardation of Down syndrome got smarter after being fed a drug that strengthened brain circuits involved in learning and memory, researchers reported Sunday….

"These mice are essentially restored to normal, which I haven't seen before," said David Patterson, a Down syndrome researcher at the University of Denver, who was not involved in the study. "And the treatment seems to be long-lasting, which is a pretty surprising observation all by itself."

Unfortunately, no boon for Average Joes looking to do better on the SATs:

Scientists also fed [the drug] to normal mice, but the drug had no effect on the animals' mental skills.

An interesting twist in light of the current scenario, where more than 90 percent of prenatal Down syndrome diagnoses lead to abortion:

"Typically the message that parents receive when the child is born is that nothing can be done," [Down Syndrome Research and Treatment Foundation co-founder Patricia A. O'Brien] White said. "I think this study offers a different perspective."