Forget About It! Your Memory & Aging
Reported October 2011
BALTIMORE (Ivanhoe Newswire)--Lots of things change as we get older, our eyesight, our hearing, and our weight. But when we start to forget simple things like where the car is parked, some people might wonder if a little forgetfulness is something more serious. We’ll tell you how having an aging brain doesn’t always mean the worst.
She makes lists, she plays Sudoku, Susan Doane does what she can to keep her mind sharp.
“I work very hard in trying to keep my memory,” Susan Doane, a 65-year-old told Ivanhoe.
Difficulty remembering things is all a part of aging. Wandering a parking lot looking for your car or losing your keys might be frustrating but it doesn’t mean Alzheimer’s. Neuroscientist’s at Johns Hopkins University say it could be just your brain getting older.
"We do see that there’s degradation in the pathways and the pathways are really sort of the highways that connect the different regions of the brain, and these regions need to be able to communicate very well. So the young brain is able to do this much, much better than the older brain,” Michael Yassa, Ph.D., a neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins University told Ivanhoe.
Run down pathways in aging brains can jumble new information with older memories causing confusion and forgetfulness. To learn more about aging brains, researchers looked at the part of the brain that stores memories – the hippocampus.
"What we thought might be the problem is people have an issue with separating or discriminating amongst similar experiences that they have,” Dr. Yassa explained.
Using functional MRI scans, researchers watched the hippocampus of volunteers comparing two images that were either exactly the same or similar. Older brains had difficulty distinguishing between two similar pictures. Researchers blame memory problems on degraded pathways leading to the hippocampus.
"If you’re degrading the pathway that leads to the hippocampus, that allows the new information to come in, the hippocampus is only left with the old information, so it sort of recycles through that old information as opposed to bringing in new information,” Dr. Yassa explained.
There’s no stopping the aging process of the mind or body, but you can at least slow things down.
"I do games, play scrabble, exercise, so I’m trying to do what you should be doing in order to not lose your memory,” Doane said.
Putting a lot of thought into an important part of life.
In order to find ways to prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, researchers want to investigate effects of new medications on the hippocampus and brain pathways.
Click here to Go Inside This Science and View Video or contact:
Michael A. Yassa, Ph.D.
Psychological and Brain Sciences
Johns Hopkins University
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