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