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Can memory loss be reversed? Study finds mechanism that may combat age-related conditions

It is well known that aging appears to have an impact on memory and social interactions, while very little is known about why this happens and prospective treatments to prevent it. While researchers wonder why this malfunction develops, a new study has revealed some significant new information.

With the help of aging mice, researchers have identified a new mechanism in neurons that causes memories associated with these social interactions to decline with age and they were able to reverse this memory loss in the lab.

What research reveals about memory problems:

It is important to note that, as of now, there are no medications that can prevent or reverse cognitive decline due to typical aging. As per the new study, the researchers report that their findings identified a specific target in the brain that may one day be used to develop therapies that could prevent or reverse memory loss due to typical aging. Aging memory problems are distinct from those caused by diseases like Alzheimer’s or dementia. 

Study leader Michy Kelly, PhD, Associate Professor of Anatomy and Neurobiology at UMSOM said, “if an older adult attends a cocktail party, afterwards they would most likely recognize the names or the faces of the other attendees, but they might struggle with remembering which name went with which face.”

Researchers can study mouse “social interactions” with their neighbors by seeing whether they will be willing to try a new food, based on their memories of encountering that food on the breath of another mouse and mice do not like to eat new foods to avoid getting sick or even dying from it, according to ANI report. When they smell food on another mouse’s breath, mice make an association between the food odor and the smell of the other mouse’s pheromones, the memory of which serves as a safety signal that any food with that odor is safe to eat in the future, the report said.

Dr. Kelly and her colleagues found that although old mice could recognize both food odors and social odors separately, they were not able to remember the association between the two, similar to the cognitive decline in older people. They also discovered that levels of PDE11A increased with age in both people and mice, specifically in a brain region responsible for many types of learning and memory known as the hippocampus. This extra PDE11A in the hippocampus was not simply found where it was normally located in young mice; instead, it preferentially accumulated as little filaments in compartments of neurons.

Dean Mark T. Gladwin, MD, Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs, UM Baltimore, and the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor at UMSOM, said, “We are at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to understanding how the brain ages, so it’s crucial to have basic research studies such as these to help us further our understanding and eventually find ways to prevent cognitive decline.”

(With inputs from ANI)

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