Age-related memory loss may be reversible

close-up of a neuron

The more we learn about neurons and how they work, the better our chances of warding off congitive impairment.

Can age-related memory loss be reversed? Once you start to lose your memory due to advancing years, age-related memory loss is usually thought to be permanent. And for most of us, most of the time, that’s true. But there’s new hope, according to a recent study at the Kavli Institute for Neuroscience.

Amy Arnsten, one of the researchers involved, stated, ““Age-related cognitive deficits can have a serious impact on our lives in the Information Age as people often need higher cognitive functions to meet even basic needs, such as paying bills or accessing medical care. These abilities are critical for maintaining demanding careers and being able to live independently as we grow older.”

Age-related memory loss research

The memory loss research (conducted by Yale University researchers and reported in the July 2012 issue of Nature) involved young, middle-aged and elderly animals, and focused on firing neurons (brain cells) in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) as the animals undertook a task involving working memory.

In the young animals, the neurons were observed to fire at a faster rate than in older animals. Of course, this result was not unexpected. However, once the neurochemical environment around the neurons in the PFCs of the older animals was adjusted so that it more closely resembled that of the younger animals, the firing rates of the neurons increased.

These results indicate that it is actually possible to reverse the effects of ageing, at least as far as cognitive impairment and memory problems is concerned. And at least theoretically. Obviously, it’s not a simple thing to alter the brain’s inner environment, but at least it seems theoretically possible to reverse age-related memory loss.

The researchers identified a specific signalling molecule (cAMP), an excess of which can cause neuronal firing to be affected. Further research is ongoing to try to find a way to successfully block cAMP so that the study’s initial findings can benefit the general public.

Memory exercises

Needless to say, indulging in memory work and other cognitive exercises can also have a distinct and positive effect on the brain’s performance, and specifically on age-related memory loss. So don’t just sit back and wait for the researchers to come up with a chemical fix for your memory problems; keep your brain active and engaged if you want it to keep firing on all cylinders!

How to do that? You could start by tackling some of the puzzles on this site, and trying to improve your memory by learning some of the memory techniques explained in detail right here too.

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