Study Finds EPO Has Cognitive Benefits September 11, 2008Posted by Matt Brown in Endurance, Human Enhancement.
Tags: EPO, Human Enhancement, intelligence, sport, Transhumanism
Josh over at Human Enhancement and Biopolitics has recently commented on a rather interesting development concerning EPO. EPO, or erythropoietin, is a hormone in the body that regulates red blood cell production. While naturally occuring in the body, it is also a favorite drug of endurance athletes the world over for its ability to increase the body’s production of red blood cells and thus increase submaximal endurance. However, new studies have shown that EPO also has beneficial neurological effects. Doctors had noticed that patients given EPO to treat kidney failure also gained an increase in cognitive abilities. To quantify these affects researchers than conducted a study whereby rats were given injections of EPO every other day for three weeks. At the end of the trial mice given the drug had better memory in some situations than those fed a placebo, with the cognitive benefits lasting up to four weeks after the last injection.
While all the above is interesting, the best part is why EPO triggered these effects. When I first read this I assumed that that increases in memory could be attributed to the increased red blood cell count. Keep in mind that more RBC’s means more oxygen making it’s way to the brain allowing the brain to produce more energy and thus do more work. Instead, it seems that EPO is actually directly affecting the hippocampus, a part of the brain associated with memory and learning, by increasing the plasticity of the neurons found there. In essence, it is making the neurons more efficient at transmitting nerve impulses.
All of this has some very exciting implications. EPO’s well documented physical effects already make it a wonder drug for athletes, these new fidings could make it popular with the population at large. Just as steroids are popular with average people trying to mold a more physically attrative body so EPO could soon become popular with those trying to get a advantage at work or in business, and unlike steroids the dangers of EPO (too many RBC’s can be dangerous) can be rather easily kept in check with regular blood tests to ensure a healthy level of RBC’s. It is possible that as more people accept the benefits of EPO, acceptance of other enhancement technologies will also rise, helping to bring the beneftis of these technologies to more and more people.