The other day I was looking through some Facebook friends’ pictures, and I saw a picture of one friend’s daughter at her science fair. I left a comment saying that I’d once been a science fair girl–and in the ninth grade I did a project called something like “The Effects of Pentylenetetrazol on Meroines Unguiculatus regarding Intelligence.”

The gist of my project was this: I had done some research and discovered that many famous geniuses were also epileptics. And epilepsy is caused by electrical misfiring in the brain. So these brains were somehow more electrically sensitive. So . . . could we raise intelligence by causing an electrical “storm” in the brain?
So I ran gerbils through a maze, timed them, and then injected them with Metrazol (the brand name for pentylenetetrazol, a central nervous system stimulant), and then ran them through the maze again.
In some cases, the drug did help the gerbils run faster (or did they simply remember the maze? The control group ran twice without receiving the injection). But unfortunately, the drug caused severe seizures in several of my furry friends, and they didn’t survive.
Anyway–after leaving a short version of the above with my FB friend’s picture, he did a little research of his own and wrote to tell me that Metrazol’s FDA approval was yanked (in 1982). BUT–and this is from Wikipedia: Recently, it has been shown that pentetrazol at non-epileptic doses, along with two other compounds (Picrotoxin and bilobalide) can restore the cognitive function (learning and memory) of a mouse model of Down syndrome by inhibiting GABAA receptor without inducing seizures.[4] These results caused renewed interest in pentetrazol as a potential drug candidate for Down syndrome, although clinical trials are probably still a couple of years away.[1].

The finding of pentetrazol’s effectiveness in treating Down Syndrome has lead to it being explored as a means of correcting other learning deficiencies. Specifically, hamsters denied their natural circadian rhythm (though not denied sleep) had their memory restored to near-normal levels when treated with pentetrazol[5].

Ha! Who knew? Maybe I was on to something . . . (And now do you see why I’ve fallen in love with “House?”)



  1. Mocha with Linda

    I think you could have gotten your doctorate in many areas!

  2. Smilingsal

    So you’re saying that you (ewww) handled mice?

  3. Anonymous

    sounds fascinating!
    you must have been on to something!
    have you heard that live animals
    are not allowed in some school district’s science fairs any longer? i suppose this could limit science project options.

  4. Lisa

    My daughter is a dog lover, and is doing her science fair project on whether full breeds or “mutts” are more obedient. I’m not quite sure how she plans to go about this (I help my kids, but I do NOT do their projects for them.) She is not allowed to bring our dog in as part of her project because it’s against school rules. She can do the research, then document it with pictures they said. We’ll see how it goes.

  5. Anonymous

    Angie, you never cease to amaze me with your insatiable curiosity about things. I love this story and what a phenomenal “rest of the story”! I expect we will see some remnant of this in a future book? Clyde

  6. Angela

    You never know, Clyde! 🙂

    Sally, gerbils are in a class by themselves. Though I have nothing against mice–or rats, as long as they’re clean and live in a cage. Running through my house is a different matter altogether.

    True story I’m digging up from my memory banks–gerbils were introduced in the U.S. in 1957 by a man named Victor Schwentker. I wrote this man in 1970, I believe, and asked about using gerbils for my science fair projects. He responded with a kind letter and a box filled with a dozen gerbils–male and female. From that point on, I had gerbils aplenty. 🙂 They’re very fertile.



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