A Magic Learning Pill? Researchers Say It’s Possible

By Debra Viadero — March 19, 2010 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Science Daily is reporting this morning on a discovery that might one day lead to a pill that could boost students’ learning capacity after they hit puberty.

Research—and experience—has long shown that learning languages and certain spatial skills, such as operating a video or computer game, become more difficult during the teenage years. In a study published this month in the journal Science, researcher Sheryl Smith and her colleagues at State University of New York (SUNY) Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn argue that such difficulties are linked to the emergence of a novel brain receptor, called alpha4-beta-delta, in the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain that controls learning and memory. They show in their study, however, that such learning deficits can be reversed by a stress steroid that diminishes the harmful effects of alpha4-beta-delta.

Here’s what the good professor had to say about it in Science Daily:

These findings suggest that intrinsic brain mechanisms alter learning during adolescence, but that mild stress may be one factor that can reverse this decline in learning proficiency during the teenage years. ... They also suggest that different strategies for learning and motivation may be helpful in middle school. And it is within the realm of possibility that a drug could be developed that would increase learning ability post-puberty, one that might be especially useful for adolescents with learning disabilities."

Don’t look for any magic learning pills to be available in your neighborhood drug store anytime soon, though.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.