‘Smart’ mice may one day help people with cognitive problems

By changing a single gene, scientists have made mice that are smarter, and recall fear less. This gene affects how active the enzyme PDE4B is. This enzyme occurs in many vertebrates, including humans.

The “brainy mice” showed a better ability than ordinary mice to recognise another mouse that they had been introduced to the day before. They were also quicker at learning the location of a hidden escape platform in a test called the Morris water maze.

While the enhanced mice were smarter, they also showed less anxiety. This wouldn’t help mice in the wild, as they would be found by predators more easily. These mice spent more time in the open, and aren’t as scared of cat urine.

Researchers hope that medicines that affect PDE4B may someday be used for helping people with Alzheimer’s.