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People suffering with memory loss could be a step closer to treatment after doctors discovered a drug that boosts the part of the brain responsible for storing and processing memories.

A single oral dose of methylene blue was shown to cause an increased MRI-based response in brain areas that control short-term memory and attention.

Methylene blue is used to treat methemoglobinemia - a blood disorder in which oxygen is unable to release itself effectively to tissue - and as a surgical stain.

"Although the memory-enhancing effects of methylene blue were shown in rodents in the 1970s, the underlying neuronal changes in the brain responsible for memory improvement and the effects of methylene blue on short-term memory and sustained-attention tasks have not been investigated," said study author Timothy Duong from the University of Texas.

The results showed methylene blue increased response in a region of the brain known as the bilateral insular cortex.

The findings suggest methylene blue can regulate certain brain networks related to sustained attention and short-term memory after just a single dose.

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