Study offers insight into the aging brain

Memory loss is often seen as an inevitable side effect of aging, but results of a new study suggest otherwise. Researchers from New York’s Columbia University believe they have identified a gene associated with memory lapses not related to Alzheimer’s disease, and not only does this discovery offer insight into the aging brain, but experts believe it could signal a way for senior care experts to preserve memory among the elderly population.

Secret in a small part of the brain
To fully understand the mechanisms behind age-related memory loss, researchers looked at eight brains, specifically, an area of the hippocampus known as the detante gyrus, which is the area most closely associated with memory. They found that while the brains of younger adults had higher levels of a gene known as RbAp48, older subjects had less. While they had a theory, researchers had to see whether it held true in living subjects, so they genetically engineered young mice with  less RbAp48 in their brains. They found that they had cognitive abilities similar to mice four years older than them.

“What was remarkable is that if you just manipulate this one molecule in this particular area of the brain, you now have a young mouse that looks very much like an old mouse,” neurolgoist Scott Small, one of the study’s lead authors, told NPR.

Memory care breakthrough
While it remains to be seen what impacts these results will have, experts are optimistic that it could change the way the community views memory care in elderly adults. Additionally, it offers hope that lapses in memory – which are common as people grow older – are not necessarily early signs of Alzheimer’s disease because the dentante gyrus is not affected by the disease.

Impact of lifestyle
Until researchers develop a drug using these new findings, seniors have some options at their disposal that have proven to help them boost their brain power as they get older. According to the Mayo Clinic, social interaction is one of the best ways to maintain memory because it can stave off depression and stress, both of which contribute to memory loss. Additionally, staying mentally active whether through performing a daily crossword or reading helps.