Uncovering the surprising link between opioid exercise and memory loss thumbnail

Memory contextualizes our emotions and deepens our identities. But diseases comparable to dementia can wipe out a long time of experiences with out a note. 

In her debut e-book, The Memory Thief, science journalist Lauren Aguirre ’86 explores how opioids can contribute to this loss. The e-book chronicles an uncommon develop of amnesia originally identified in a neighborhood of fentanyl overdose survivors—and explores how this discovery might perhaps presumably well additionally lead to a cure for Alzheimer’s.

Aguirre studied science journalism at MIT and landed a map with Nova, the science documentary series from PBS, thru her participation in the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP). After working there all over her senior 12 months, she accredited a bulky-time production position after graduation, exploring matters from condominium exploration to human origins.

At final, even though, she wished to explore a single topic extra deeply. The one she selected used to be intensely deepest: she at this time lost her maintain memory right thru a straightforward partial seizure, a condition linked to epilepsy. “It used to be very at this time treated with remedy, however I had that surely visceral trip of how repugnant it’s far to surely now not know who you are for a small while. It launched my fascination with ‘irregular brains,’” she says.

This led her to search for fentanyl-precipitated amnesia, documented in a 2018 record in the New England Journal of Medication and seen in a cluster of Massachusetts patients. In some folks, fentanyl kills neurons in the hippocampus—a mind express already inclined to the oxygen deprivation that occurs right thru an overdose—by inflicting cells to fireplace out of withhold watch over. 

Since the syndrome is so uncommon, she encountered some docs who were skeptical concerning the connection between fentanyl and amnesia. The e-book traces how others comparable to Jed Barash, medical director of the Troopers’ Dwelling in Chelsea, Massachusetts, doggedly pursued solutions, in the kill confirming how opioids can danger the hippocampus. 

“These Alzheimer’s researchers and neuroscientists are heroes. We owe them a debt of gratitude, attributable to I enact relate that in the kill there shall be, if now not treatments, now not lower than treatments,” she says.

At this time engaged on a e-book of medical fiction, Aguirre credits MIT with her willingness to secure these leaps. “Ideally suited being in a map to outlive there gave me the self belief to imagine that in the kill, as soon as you’re employed now not easy adequate, you’ll decide issues out,” she says.


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