Age-related memory loss isn’t permanent

The ability to form memories lasting a few hours is lost due to age-related impairment of the function of certain neurons. Intriguingly, stimulating those same neurons can reverse these age-related memory defects

Researchers from the the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute bring good news to those who fear losing their memory with age. They have found that age-related memory loss may not be permanent and could be curable.

In a new study published in the online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Ron Davis, chair of the Department of Neuroscience at Scripps Florida, and Ayako Tonoki-Yamaguchi, a research associate in Davis's lab, took a close look at memory and memory traces in the brains of both young and old fruit flies.

In the case of the fruit fly, the ability to form memories lasting a few hours (intermediate-term memory) is lost due to age-related impairment of the function of certain neurons. Intriguingly, the scientists found that stimulating those same neurons can reverse these age-related memory defects.

"This study shows that once the appropriate neurons are identified in people, in principle at least one could potentially develop drugs to hit those neurons and rescue those memories affected by the aging process," Davis said. "In addition, the biochemistry underlying memory formation in fruit flies is remarkably conserved with that in humans so that everything we learn about memory formation in flies is likely applicable to human memory and the disorders of human memory."

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