Researchers at the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg have discovered a particular molecule, named Dickkopf-1 or Dkk1, that seems to have a positive effect on cognition in the elderly. Typically, as humans (and rats) age, they produce fewer neurons, which inhibits cognitive abilities. But when Dkk1 is blocked, older rats tested just as well as younger rats on memory and recognition tests.

Interestingly, blocking Dkk1 also decreases depression–it’s unclear if that’s due to how that molecule interacts with the brain’s neuron-producing parts, but Dkk1 and depression certainly seem to be correlated. A researcher from the facility says they are working on possible clinical uses for a Dkk1-blocker.