Targeting the NMDA receptor subunit NR2B for treating or preventing age-related memory decline

Deheng Wang, Stephanie A. Jacobs, Joe Z. Tsien

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Introduction: Age-related memory loss is believed to be a result of reduced synaptic plasticity, including changes in the NR2 subunit composition of the NMDA receptor. It is known that endogenous NR2B subunits decrease as the brain ages, whereas transgenic upregulation of NR2B enhances synaptic plasticity and learning and memory in several animal species. Accumulating evidence suggests that elevated brain magnesium levels, via dietary supplementation, can boost NR2B in the brain, consequently reversing memory deficits and enhancing cognitive abilities.Areas covered: This review highlights the convergent molecular mechanisms via the NR2B pathway as a useful strategy for treating age-related memory loss. A dietary approach, via oral intake of a novel compound, magnesium L-threonate (MgT), to boost NR2B expression in the brain is highlighted.Expert opinion: Direct upregulation of the NR2B subunit expression can enhance synaptic plasticity and memory functions in a broad range of behavioral tasks in rodents. Other upregulation approaches, such as targeting the NR2B transporter or surface recycling pathway via cyclin-dependent kinase 5, are highly effective in improving memory functions. A dietary supplemental approach by optimally elevating the [Mg2+] in the brain is surprisingly effective in upregulating NR2B expression and improving memories in preclinical studies. MgT is currently under clinical trials.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1121-1130
Number of pages10
JournalExpert Opinion on Therapeutic Targets
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Age-related memory loss
  • Alzheimer
  • Depression
  • Magnesium
  • Magnesium L-threonate
  • Memory enhancement
  • Mild cognitive impairment
  • NMDA receptor NR2B
  • NMDA receptors
  • Parkinson
  • Schizophrenia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmacology
  • Drug Discovery
  • Clinical Biochemistry


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