New treatments for Alzheimer's disease and epilepsy could be developed using a protein that controls brain activity, according to scientists.
Memory loss may be slowed and the symptoms of epileptic seizures calmed using new drugs that could be developed after researchers pinpointed the role of a key enzyme, GSK3.
The way brain cells communicate during times of peak activity when electrical signalling by the brain's neurons is raised has been analysed by scientists, who found the GSK3 enzyme reduces the flow of chemical messengers between brain cells, helping to suppress activity.
The memory of Alzheimer's disease patients could be protected by developing a drug to block the effect of this enzyme and increase the chemical messaging between brain cells. Conversely, drugs could be created to boost the effect of the enzyme and slow brain activity in epilepsy patients, reducing the effects of their seizures.
Dr Mike Cousin, of the University of Edinburgh, which led the research, said: "Until now, we understood that this enzyme was important for brain cell function, but we did not fully appreciate why.
"This study shows that GSK3 plays a crucial part in controlling brain function during peak activity."