Scientists have good news for all the older adults who occasionally forget why they walked into a room – and panic that they are getting Alzheimer’s disease, reports Reuters.
“Not only is age-related memory loss a syndrome in its own right and completely unrelated to that dread disease, but unlike Alzheimer’s it may be reversible or even preventable, researchers led by a Nobel laureate said in a study published on Wednesday.
“Using human brains that had been donated to science as well as the brains of lab mice, the study for the first time pinpointed the molecular defects that cause cognitive aging.
“In an unusual ray of hope for a field that has had almost nothing to offer older adults whose memory is failing, the study’s authors conclude that drugs, foods or even behaviors might be identified that affect those molecular mechanisms, helping to restore memory.
“Any such interventions would represent a significant advance over the paltry offerings science has come up with so far to prevent memory decline, such as advice to keep cognitively active and healthy – which helps some people, but not all, and has only a flimsy scientific foundation. By identifying the “where did I park the car?” molecule, the discovery could also kick-start the mostly moribund efforts to develop drugs to slow or roll back the memory lapses that accompany normal aging.
“This is a lovely set of studies,” said Molly Wagster of the National Institute on Aging, an expert on normal age-related memory decline who was not involved in the new study. “They provide clues to the underlying mechanism of age-related memory decline and will, hopefully, move us down the road toward targeted therapeutics.” Continue reading “It’s not Alzheimer’s”
Forgetting things seems to be a part of getting older which everyone accepts. But could the confidence of the young be covering up their own memory slips?
The BBC reports that older people were more consistent in memory tests, research from Germany shows – although younger people did achieve overall higher test scores.
“The assessments were carried out in Berlin on 100 older people – aged between 65 and 80 – and 100 people in their 20s. They had to show up at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin for 100 days of tests.
“We were very nice to them and had a good atmosphere at the labs,” says Prof Florian Schmiedek.
“People got to know each other, it was kind of a social activity for them. And we also paid them for those 100 days.”
“The brain remembers things by forming connections between its 100 billion neurons or brain cells.
“Memories are formed when these connections – or synapases – are strengthened.
“Information from the senses is sent to the brain’s cortex, and then on to parts surrounding an area called the hippocampus.
“Younger people assume they have fast reaction times, especially younger men. But they have an over-confidence issue.” Dr Carol HollandResearch Centre for Healthy Ageing These ‘bind’ the memory together, before it is sent to the hippocampus itself, where information about context or location is added.
“Working” memory – crucial for solving problems and making plans – is like a blackboard of the mind, located in the prefrontal cortex of the brain. It is used to remember phone numbers long enough to make a call – but then it is usually forgotten unless it is passed on to the long-term memory for storage. The tasks were designed to test different types of memory. In one, the participants had to remember a list of words. Another had a list of numbers to memorise while simultaneously carrying out simple arithmetic on those numbers – to challenge their “working” memory.
A growing army of researchers have marshaled a pile of data to argue that we can alter the emotional impact of a memory by adding new information to it or recalling it in a different context.
This hypothesis challenges 100 years of neuroscience and overturns cultural touchstones from Marcel Proust to best-selling memoirs. MIT TechnologyReview reports: “It changes how we think about the permanence of memory and identity, and it suggests radical nonpharmacological approaches to treating pathologies like post-traumatic stress disorder, other fear-based anxiety disorders, and even addictive behaviors.
“In a landmark 2010 paper in Nature, Daniela Schiller (then a postdoc at New York University) and her NYU colleagues, including Joseph E. LeDoux and Elizabeth A. Phelps, published the results of human experiments indicating that memories are reshaped and rewritten every time we recall an event. And, the research suggested, if mitigating information about a traumatic or unhappy event is introduced within a narrow window of opportunity after its recall—during the few hours it takes for the brain to rebuild the memory in the biological brick and mortar of molecules—the emotional experience of the memory can essentially be rewritten.
“When you affect emotional memory, you don’t affect the content,” Schiller explains. “You still remember perfectly. You just don’t have the emotional memory.” Continue reading “Re-writing bad memories”
As the baby boom generation ages towards retirement, attention grows over how people can remain mentally sharp. Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia make boomers start to worry when they lose their car keys or stumble over a name. At the same time, Internet search engines
and home data storage have made the actual need to remember less important. Add to this the rapid pace of media and the public’s seemingly relentless focus on immediacy over history, and it seems like a wholesale assault on memory is sweeping the culture. So a story like “The Forgetting Pill Erases Painful Memories” recently appearing in Wired magazine would seem to support the current culture of amnesia. Continue reading “The science of forgetting”