Young people * Mental wellbeing

Nasal spray boosts memory

Zone default image Works during REM sleep

German scientists have developed a nasal spray which, when applied before bedtime, appears to boost memory.

The active ingredient in the spray is a chemical called interleukin-6, usually associated with boosting inflammation in the body. But researchers have found it can also be used to boost memory.

"We provide the first evidence that the immunoregulatory signal interleukin-6 plays a beneficial role in sleep-dependent formation of long-term memory in humans," said Lisa Marshall from the University of Lubeck.

In the study, 17 healthy young men were read either an emotional or neutral short story, after which they were given a nasal spray containing either IL-6 or a placebo (dummy) fluid.

Both sleep and brain electric activity were monitored through the night. The following morning, participants were asked to write down as many words as they could remember from each of the two stories.

The men who received the dose of IL-6 remembered more words.

The scientists think the spray works during rapid eye movement (REM) phase of sleep, when the brain is most active.

The research is published in this month's FASEB journal.

This article was published on Tue 6 October 2009

Image © © Dmitri MIkitenko -

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