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Chocolates Help in Long-Term Memory Formation in Snails

Sep 27, 2012 08:18 AM EDT
File photo of a snail
(Photo : Jason Hollinger/Flickr)

Several studies have maintained that chocolates are beneficial for health, now a new research reveals that your favorite sweet stuff can also help in forming long-term memories, at least as observed in snails.

Dark chocolates are known to have some health benefits like lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol and also helps in proper working of the heart and cardiovascular system. Most of these benefits are from flavonoids, a key component found in chocolates which act as antioxidants.

They are a large family of compounds found in various food products like vegetables, nuts, fruits, green tea and berries. In order to find out the effect of flavonoids on the memory power, researchers from the University of Calgary, Canada, tested a particular flavonoid known as epicatechin (EPI) on pond snails (Lymnaea stagnalis).

For their study, researchers Lee Fruson and Ken Lukowiak used pond snails to learn the effect of EPI on snails' behavior like their movements, their respiratory system, formation of long-term memory (LTM) and extinction of the LTM. Pond snails normally breathe through their skin, but when the oxygen levels are depleted, they use their breathing tube which they extend it to the surface to get oxygen. These snails can be trained to close their breathing tubes when they are in deoxygenated water by just tapping on the tube, according to a report in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

When the researchers exposed the snails to an EPI concentration (15 mg l-1) in water, they found that there was no effect of the EPI on the snails. However, when they trained the pond snails for half-hour to close their breathing tubes they found that the snails formed long-term memories that extended for a day unlike their typical memory which does not last for more than three hours.

With two more training sessions, the snails were able to remember the task of shutting the breathing tube for about three days. Experts also revealed that the exposure to EPI significantly showed an increase in the resistance to extinction of memory. They trained the snails again, but this time they taught the snails to open the breathing tubes. Surprisingly, they noticed that the snails didn't remember the new task, but shut the breathing tube which they learned when they were trained while exposed to EPI concentration.

The test showed evidence that EPI compound helps in forming longer and stronger memory by causing an impact on the neurons. The neurons store the memory.

The findings of the study, "A flavonol present in cocoa[(-)epicatechin] enhances snail memory", published in the Journal of Experimental Biology concluded that diet sources of EPI can improve the cognitive abilities and make one smarter.

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