Working in the field we do, we often have friends, family members and total strangers say they know someone with Alzheimer’s Disease. As the conversation progresses, however, we start to realize it isn’t Alzheimer’s Disease but more likely a different form of memory loss that comes with an aging brain.
This week the Associated Press helped make that distinction more clear in an article showing early research into age-related memory loss and what may be happening in the brain – particularly the hippocampus – to cause the phenomenon.
Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center examined brains of body donors who died without signs of neurologic disease. They found a gene in the brain’s memory center that stopped working well in the older donors by producing les of a protein called RbAp48. This is a different protein than the one associated with Alzheimer’s Disease.
Next, the scientists cut the levels of that protein in healthy young rodents and discovered they performed poorly on memory tasks, much like the older mice members naturally.
“More intriguing, the memory loss was reversible: Boosting the protein made forgetful old mice as sharp as the youngsters again, the researchers reported in the journal Science Translational Medicine,” according to the AP article.
“’As we want to live longer and stay engaged in a cognitively complex world, I think even mild age-related memory decline is meaningful,’ added Columbia neurologist Dr. Scott Small, a senior author of the study. ‘It opens up a whole avenue of investigation to now try to identify interventions.’”
In the meantime, there continues to be a stronger link between regular exercise and sound nutrition and brain functionality as we age. This study also confirmed that keeping the circulatory system healthy also keeps up the RbAp48 protein levels in that part of the hippocampus that reserves memories.