Brain Injuries Aren’t Permanent: New Drug Reverses Trauma and Memory Loss

For millions of parents worldwide, sports risks can be nerve-wracking. Football, soccer, not to mention newly popularized martial arts are all risks to the brain with a child's long-term wellbeing on the line. But scientists at the University of California at San Francisco may have found a solution.

Studies of a new drug entitled “ISRIB” has created hope for the nearly 2 million Americans who suffer from traumatic brain injury (TBI) every year. One month after a concussion, mice administered the drug ISRIB had similar memory capabilities as mice without any brain damage.

Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, this has drastic consequences for TBI sufferers, but potentially also for healthy adults. Self-experimenters and biohackers aren't waiting for official approvals, either.

Protein Synthesis and Integrated Stress Response

In understanding TBIs, scientists have discovered even mild injuries result in an “integrated stress response” in both humans and animals. This disrupts protein synthesis in the brain, which makes long-term memory formation more challenging.

In 2013, biochemist Peter Walter found that ISRIB could block the stress response in humans from within a petri dish. His next step was to test ISRIB in healthy mice, which yielded surprising memory enhancing results. Finally, Walter and colleague Susanna Rosi used ISRIB on mice with brain injuries and found “concussed mice performed as well as their healthy counterparts.”


In fact, both Water and Rosi believe their new research is so profound, it could signal a paradigm shift in treating brain injuries and trauma.

This is the most exciting piece of work I've ever done, no doubt.” says Rosi.

Normally you would give up on these mice and say nothing can be done here. But ISRIB just magically brings the cognitive ability back” echoes Walter.

TBI, Trauma, ISRIB, and…Google?

With this latest discovery, sufferers of TBI may have hope, but only time will tell. Clinical trials for any drug usually costs millions of dollars and requires years of research. ISRIB may show promise in mice, but that is a long way from human interventions and widespread availability.

This reality still leaves room for hope. ISRIB can easily cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB) and has been already tested in two models. Interestingly, the ISRIB molecule is licensed to a Google-owned company called Calico, which studies the biology of aging and life span. Whether this will have any impact on the future availability of the drug is unknown.

That hasn't stopped biohackers and DIY nootropics enthusiasts from seeking ISRIB via synthetic labs. As early as 2014 (after the first human cell petri dish studies were published), members of the Longecity forum attempted to synthesize ISRIB for themselves. While labs found it too challenging at the time, self-experimenters may not have long to wait for this memory enhancing molecule to be available. For those willing to take the risk, it could be life-changing.


Nootropedia is meant to be a resource for individuals researching drugs and supplements that are good for brain health, otherwise known as nootropics, and thus we are the Nootropics Encyclopedia. Because of our in-depth coverage of this topic, our community has requested that we cover other brain health topics and "lifehacks" so that has become the focus of Nootropedia.