Chocolate makes snails smarter?
October 26, 2012
There have been lots of rumors and talks about foods that are designed to enhance brain functions. And this has taken the world’s imagination by storm. If you happen to type the word “superfood” and search for it in the internet, you will be surprised to see many and diverse websites that are dedicated to this topic.
A dedicated group of researchers from the University of Calgary has become fascinated and curious about how certain dietary factors can really have an effect on memory, either impairing or enhancing it. Initially Ken Lukowiak was very skeptical regarding this matter. He stated, “I didn’t think any of this stuff would work.”
Despite much skepticism, Lukowiak joined with undergraduate Lee Fruson to focus on a certain group of compounds known as flavonoids. These are commonly found in a wide variety of foods that are considered to be “superfoods” (including chocolate and green tea).
The researchers realized it would be difficult to single out a single food component and study the diverse impact it could have on human memory. There are just too many factors involved in the process of memory formation. Instead they decided to experiment with snails to find out whether the flavonoids that are found in dark chocolates could really be used to improve their memories.
As stated by the researchers, these mollusks have the capacity to be trained and be adept at a simple activity. In this case, to be able to keep their breathing tubes closed when they are subjected and immersed in deoxygenated water.
Lukowiak explained that pond snails are able to breathe through their skins but when oxygen levels start to drop they extend their breathing tubes above the surface of the water in order to augment their oxygen supply. Pretty smart little creatures.
They decided to work with epicatechin, one specific flavonoid compound. First they had to find a concentration that didn’t affect the snails’ behavior.
They offered the snails a half-hour training session in deoxygenated water. It sounds funny, but this allows the snails to form intermediate-term memories that typically last less than 3 hours. This is not enough for long-term memories that would be greater than 24 hours.
In this case, 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 stick for up to 3 days.
I guess Spongebob will be seen hoarding chocolates for Gary! Hahaha yep! Spongebob Squarepants lover here!
Well, if you want to see more about this research go here.