Nasal spray for memory enhancement

Neuroendocronologists report that a nasal spray containing a chemical secreted by the body's own immune system can improve the formation of long-term memories while sleeping. Lisa Marshall and team at Germany's University of Lubeck studied the impact of the substance, interlukin-6, on emotional and procedural memory retention. From the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology:
To make this discovery, Marshall and colleagues had 17 healthy young men spend two nights in the laboratory. On each night after reading either an emotional or neutral short story, they sprayed a fluid into their nostrils which contained either interleukin-6 or a placebo fluid. The subsequent sleep and brain electric activity was monitored throughout the night. The next morning subjects wrote down as many words as they could remember from each of the two stories. Those who received the dose of IL-6 could remember more words.
"You must remember this: Scientists develop nasal spray that improves memory"


  1. I remember reading about stuff like this back when BoingBoing was in print. This is a bit more concrete than anything from 20 years ago though.

  2. @2: I think that was probably desmopressin. Never did a thing for me, although the promise and anticipation was kind of exciting. There aren’t that many shortcuts for learning, except to win the genetic and/or behavioral lottery.

  3. I tried some of those ‘Smart Drugs’ in the ’90s. Unfortunately, someone offered me some Ketamine shortly after – I said yes, so presumably the Smart Drugs hadn’t kicked in…

  4. @DILLENGER69, Totally! I think I first read about the nasal spray Vasopressin’s potential use as a “smart drug” in bOING bOING too!

  5. fta “if a good night’s sleep follows”

    tbh, just get more sleep, I’ve always found a direct correlation between getting enough sleep + remembering things. probably cheaper than a nasal spray.

    @9 yeah.

  6. anyone read “next” by michael crichton? one part of the story was something about a nasal spray (containing human genes) that was changing peoples behaviour. scary stuff to me: sci-fi zapped into reality again.

  7. erm. concrete??

    in a pool of 17 (17) people, those who received the dose of IL-6 could remember more words.

    that seems to be the news.

  8. Anonymous: that’s a pretty reasonable size for studies like this. You can’t expect studies with thousands of subjects like you can get with the big pharmaceuticals like heart drugs etc. (Who’s going to pay for studies of enhancement properties of non-patentable products like interleukin-6?)

    Psychologists usually work with a few dozen student subjects at most, especially given that this study would’ve monopolized the sleep laboratory for days or weeks. (17 subjects, 2 nights each, 34 sleeps; if the lab has 3 rooms wired up and technicians available, then that’s 12 days to process everyone, or nearly 2 weeks.)

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