What is it about?

Over 20% of American adults receive one or more prescriptions for corticosteroid hormones over a 3 year period. This is often associated with several side effects including problems with memory, and a sensation of brain fog. In this paper, we have investigated the way these steroids interact with normal memory processes. We report for the first time that memory processes in the hippocampus, the major memory center in the brain, exhibit a daily rhythm that is most effective during times of daily activity and least effective during sleep. The administration of steroids not only abolishes this increased memory function during the active part of the day, but also alters the regulation of the ‘clock genes’ in the hippocampus that controls the time of day specific activity of this part of the brain.

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Why is it important?

It is becoming increasingly clear that all activities which interfere with our normal daily rhythms, such as shift work, are bad for human health and the functioning of many systems in the body including the brain. This work now shows that the administration of steroids - which are very commonly prescribed for a wide variety of diseases - can alter the normal rhythmic regulation of the memory centers in the brain to adversely influence mechanisms underlying memory performance. This suggest not only that we should be much more careful in our timing of steroid administration, but also that a better understanding of how steroids alter the chemical basis of memory function might allow for new therapeutic approaches to memory disorders.

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This page is a summary of: Circadian regulation of hippocampal function is disrupted with corticosteroid treatment, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, April 2023, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2211996120.
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