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MARTHA SEZ: Baby boomers, jellyfish and short-term memory

September 15, 2017
By MARTHA ALLEN , Lake Placid News

Now, where did I put my glasses?

Fellow baby boomers: Wouldn't it be nice to have an assistant to help with simple, everyday tasks like finding the grocery list or your other shoe, or reminding you why you came downstairs?

Another option is to pop a few Prevagen pills, at least according to the ads that bombard me when I watch television. I like to keep up with politics with Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski on the "Morning Joe" show as they expose the shenanigans and double-dealing of those in power, but I think they would have more credibility if they weren't constantly cutting to the Prevagen advertising that New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman calls "clear-cut fraud."

Fox News and CNN are flooding the airwaves with Prevagen ads, too, even though Schneiderman and the Federal Trade Commission have charged the marketers of Prevagen with making false and unsubstantiated claims.

Prevagen is promoted as a memory aid for the elderly that relies on "a protein found in jellyfish" for its efficacy.

This surprised me the first 10 or 15 times I heard it because I had never thought of jellyfish as having particularly good memories. Usually I can locate the remote in time to mute whatever I don't want to listen to on television, but there are so many Prevagen ads that it is well nigh impossible to mute them all. I am now used to the idea that Prevagen is made out of jellyfish, but I continue to ask myself why.

"Jellyfish have drifted along on ocean currents for millions of years, even before dinosaurs lived on the Earth," according to "National Geographic Kids." What exactly do they need to remember?

Now, elephants are a different story. Scientists agree - as much as scientists can ever agree on anything - that elephants are highly intelligent and have excellent memories. The old saw, "An elephant never forgets," is true. Why then did the makers of Prevagen not use a protein found in elephants for their memory-enhancing, over-the-counter dietary supplement?

Well, I can think of two reasons. First and foremost, elephants are beloved by all, certainly far more so than jellyfish, who have basically no personalities, and sting people indiscriminately, especially box jellyfish.

According to information from the Mayo Clinic, "The long tentacles trailing from the jellyfish body can inject you with venom from thousands of microscopic barbed stingers. ... In rare cases jellyfish stings are life-threatening."

Any company that claimed to derive proteins from elephants would be universally hated. Jellyfish abuse, on the other hand, even widespread abuse, is unlikely to mobilize protesters in any great numbers.

The second reason for not deriving memory-enhancing proteins from elephants is a purely pragmatic one: Namely, it is their long-term memory that is so exceptional, not their short-term memory. An elephant, like your Great Aunt Mabel, will remember every incident that occurred, every individual she knew and every single place she lived in infinite detail no matter how long she lives, although the elephant is less likely to go on and on about it. My point here is that the elderly - Prevagen's intended market - don't need help with long-term memory. It's short-term memory, what just happened 15 minutes ago, that eludes us.

Q: After they have derived the protein, what do they do with the rest of the jellyfish, I wonder?

A: Don't really know. We envision huge dumpsters of waste jellyfish. Or maybe they throw the carcasses to the seagulls. I suppose it depends on where they derive the proteins: Do they have labs right there on the beach, or do they ship the jellies someplace? More research is needed.

Jellyfish are, of course, not actually fish. Their scientific name is Cnidaria Scyphozoa Aurelia, but even zoologists may call them jellies for short.

Q: I am still youngish, I guess, although I feel pretty old, since I am almost 30. My grandmother can never remember where she put her keys and she is always dumping out her purse to look for her reading glasses when they are on top of her head. Who does that?

A: Old people do that.

Q: Why? It's so random.

A: I know, right? Think of it as the way thoughts just fall out of your head when you're smoking dope.

Q: We don't call it that anymore.

A: You don't call what that?

Q: You're talking about marijuana, right? It's not called dope now.

A: Whatever.

Have a good week.

 
 

 

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