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Cure for forgetfulness? Scottish scientists launch study

What's my Facebook password? What's your name again? Where are my keys? I lost my phone! Who can even remember all the things there are to forget? But Scottish researchers say they have you covered: A team at Glasgow's CPS Research is seeking a cure for forgetfulness -- as in, not early signs of Alzheimer's, not early-onset dementia, but plain old absent-mindedness.

"What we are referring to should not be confused with the serious memory loss that is often associated with early onset dementia," CPS Research's Dr. Alan Wade told the BBC last month, adding "This study is aimed at those who are constantly losing their keys, forgetting people's names or misplacing their glasses rather than anything more serious."

Wade and colleagues are set to launch a study testing whether a smaller dose of the Alzheimer's drug memantine can help tamp down a condition they've given the (somewhat annoying) moniker "Busy Lifestyle Syndrome," a catch-all for the craziness that comes with everyday modern life: tweets, IMs, texts, e-mails.

"We commit such errors at least hourly, all of us do. I can count up the number of things I've done just today," says Dr. David Knopman, a Mayo Clinic neurologist in Rochester, Minn. "Unlike walking, or chewing gum, memory is a function that is far from perfect in humans. And it's often terribly imperfect."

The idea of swallowing a pill to enhance memory sounds like something out of the new movie "Limitless," the one in which Bradley Cooper plays a writer who develops superhuman abilities after taking a mysterious medication. That might be because, according to Knopman, Hollywood is exactly where this idea belongs. "It seems particularly far-fetched to me that this drug would be of any value," Knopman says. "Memantine is a drug that’s approved for the treatment for moderate to severe Alzheimer's. It’s never been tested on a large scale in normal people." (In a follow-up e-mail, he reiterated his point by busting out the caps lock:"There is NO EVIDENCE.")

And another thing: There's just something a little squicky about the idea of medicating something as trivial as absent-mindness. Says Knopman, "If it’s something we all do, like forgetting where we put down a piece of paper five minutes ago, or we forget to call our spouses, how can that be a disease? And how that can be medicated, except in science fiction?"

What say you, readers? Would you appreciate a pill that promised a cure for forgetfulness? Or are ideas like this best left to Hollywood?

You can find The Body Odd on Twitter and Facebook, and follow Melissa Dahl @melissadahl.