Chocolate For Brighter Snails

You may have heard about rumors and talks about foods that are designed to enhance brain functions. These have taken many people by storm. If you try typing word “superfood” and search for it online, you will stumble upon diverse websites that are dedicated to this topic.

The curiosity of the researchers from the University of Calgary was tweaked by how some dietary factors can really have an effect on memory, it could be enhanced or impaired. At first, Ken Lukowiak was kind of skeptical towards this matter. He said,  ”I didn’t think any of this stuff would work.”

In spite of all the skepticism, Lukowiak worked with undergraduate Lee Fruson to focus on a certain group of compounds called flavonoids.  They are found in a wide variety of foods that are considered to be “superfoods”, green tea and chocolate included.

The researchers though it would be hard to single out a single food component and study the diverse impact it could have on human memory.  There are so many factors included in the process of memory formation. Rather, they experimented with snails to find out whether the flavonoids that are found in dark chocolates could actually be used to improve their memories.

Then, the researchers have found out these mollusks have the capacity to be trained and be adept with a simple activity.  In such case, to be able to keep their breathing tubes closed when they are subjected and immersed in deoxygenated water.

Lukowiak said that pond snails have the ability to breathe through the skin, but when oxygen levels start dwindling, they extend their breathing tubes above the surface of the water son to augment their oxygen supply.

They then worked with epicatechin, a flavonoid compound.  They first had to find a concentration that did not have any impact on the snails’ behavior.

They gave the snails 30-minute training session in deoxygenated water.  It may sound hilarious, but this lets the snails form intermediate-term memories that usually last less than 3 hours.  This is not enough for long-term memories that would exceed 24 hours.

Thus, when the snails were put in deoxygenated water a day later, they remembered to keep their breathing tubes closed.  Further experimentation allowed the memories to be intact for up to 3 days.

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