We all know elderly people who have a hard time remembering certain things. Have you ever wondered why they can’t recall all of their past memories, or even recent memories? The obvious answer would be that when people get older, their bodies start to shut/slow down, so they can’t be as quick as they once were. But, there is more to it than that.
A discovery by Columbia University was made in 2013, and it found that most people who have memory loss have a deficiency of a protein called RbAp48. According to the article released, the deficiency occurs in the hippocampus, which is a small part of the brain that deals with memory. Scientists also stated that age-related memory loss and Alzheimer’s are not related. It used to be believed that age-related memory loss is an early start to Alzheimers, but they now believe that it isn’t.
So, in the experiment, “researchers began by performing microarray (gene expression) analyses of postmortem brain cells,” of people who aged from 33-88. Genes that were related to aging were identified, and it was found that the RbAp48 gene declined the most over time. This led researchers to conduct experiments on mice. They “used viral gene transfer and increased RbAp48 expression” in the aged mice. This not only improved their performance in the tests given, but it made them comparable to the younger mice.
This is also encouraging because it proves age-related memory loss is different than Alzheimer’s. In Alzheimer’s, there is a loss of neurons, but in age-related memory loss, there is just a functional change in the neurons. Even though this doesn’t prove that it works in humans, it is a major discovery that could leading to slowing memory loss in aging people.
According to the Huffington Post, there used to be a term for aged-related memory loss called “age associated memory impairment,” or AAMI. But, it has been broken down into 4 smaller categories: No Cognitive Impairment (NCI), Subjective Cognitive Impairment (SCI), Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), and Alzheimer’s. So, “SCI is when a person feels that their memory is not working as well as it should or once did and they tell their doctor. People have complaints including remembering names, words and numbers. Their memory tests, however, are normal.” MCI “is defined by memory loss that usually doesn’t interfere with everyday life but is more pronounced than the changes people complain about in SCI. Moreover, there are abnormalities in objective testing.”
“SCI has been studied since 1986. In landmark research, Dr. Reisberg had a total of 213 subjects, 60 with NCI and 200 with SCI. After seven years, seven people with NCI (15 percent) and 90 with SCI (54.2 percent) declined. Of the people with NCI, five went to MCI and two to probable Alzheimer’s. On the other hand, of the 90 people with SCI who progressed, 71 went to MCI and 19 declined all the way to Alzheimer’s.” (Huffington Post)
This experiment showed that people who have reported memory problems lose their memory at a fast rate and people who had no cognitive impairment had slower memory loss. But, it also showed that some people did not progress to have memory loss, which means that there is still a change for older people. So, it is important for older people to keep their minds active and live a healthy and active life. (Picture Source)