A drug commonly used to treat depression and schizophrenia now shows promise in restoring memory to patients with traumatic brain syndrome.

Tetra Discovery (a pharmaceutical company in Boston), in association with the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Department of Neurological Surgery, and funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH/NINDS), has found that a certain phosphodiesterase-4 inhibitor (PDE4B) has the ability to bring memory back to those suffering from the effects of a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Learning and Memory Difficulties with TBI

Traumatic brain injury is caused by a violent blow or jolt to the head or body, with or without skull penetration, which causes mild to long-term dysfunction of brain cells. Nearly eight out of ten TBI survivors from a brain injury experience learning and memory difficulties months to years after a brain trauma.

According to the CDC (United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), approximately 1.5 million people in the U.S. suffer from a traumatic brain injury each year, and more than 5.3 million people live with disabilities caused by TBI. So far, the most successful treaments have been with either Ritalin or Aricept, but neither has been shown to improve memory.

Central Nervous System Chemical Shows Promise in Treating TBI

PDE4Bs, known to improve memory and wakefulness in central nervous system disorders such as clinical depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease, now shows ability to restore memory to those suffering from TBI.

Research studies have shown that brain trauma inhibits a protein in nerve cells that is critical for memory. Researchers have now found that treatment of traumatized brains of rats with a certain kind of PDE4B inhibitor significantly reverses TBI-induced memory loss. The goal of the researchers with these studies has been to restore the learning and memory performance of TBI animals to nearly non-injury levels.

Research to Continue with Human TBI Survivors

The joint research project is an example of collaboration between academic researchers studying animal models of brain injury and a biotech company with expertise in human clinical trials. The University of Miami plans to continue its collaboration with Tetra with a clinical trial using this therapeutic strategy with human TBI survivors.