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Over-Expressed Gene Produces Smarter Rat

Over-expression of a particular gene (NR2B) that lets brain cells communicate just a fraction of a second longer makes a smarter rat, according to a recent research report. The researches showed that a transgenic Long Evans rat that overexpressed NR2B was able to remember novel objects, such as a toy she played with, three times longer than the average Long Evans female rat, which is considered the smartest rat strain. The transgenic rat was also much better at more complex tasks, such as remembering which path she last traveled to find a chocolate treat. NR2B is a subunit of NMBA receptors, which are like small pores in brain cells that let in electrically-charged ions that increase the activity and communication of neurons. Dr. Joe Tsien, an author of the report, referred to NR2B as the "juvenile" form of the receptor because its levels decline after puberty and the adult counterpart, NR2A, becomes more prevalent. While the juvenile form keeps communication between brain cells open maybe just a hundred milliseconds longer, that's enough to significantly enhance learning and memory and why young people tend to do both better, Dr. Tsien said. The report was published October 19 in PLoS ONE. [Press release] [PLoS ONE article]