Dr Mike Cousin and colleagues in the Centre for Integrative Physiology have discovered a protein which controls brain activity may offer hope of new drug treatments for Alzheimer's disease and epilepsy.
Researchers have pinpointed the role of a key enzyme - GSK3 - and say the discovery could lead to new drugs that would help to slow memory loss and calm the symptoms of epileptic seizures.
The landmark study, led by the University of Edinburgh, is published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.
Scientists analysed the way brain cells communicate at times of peak activity - such as the creation of new memories or in epileptic seizures - when electrical signalling by the brain's neurons is increased.
"Until now, we understood that this enzyme was important in brain cell function, but we did not fully appreciate why. This study shows that GSK3 plays a crucial part in controlling brain function during peak activity. The development of drugs to act on the enzyme could make a real difference to the lives of people with brain disorders."
Dr Mike Cousin
Reader, School of Biomedical Sciences
This article was published on Sep 20, 2010