Even among healthy people, a faltering memory is often an expected part of aging but it’s not inevitable.
Breaking research from Stanford University, “marks the beginning of an effort to better understand memory and memory loss, in older adults using advanced imaging and data analysis techniques.” This understanding is extremely important at this moment, as countless people in the US and across the globe, are experiencing a very unwelcome memory loss.
The Game Plan
A postdoctoral research fellow at Stanford University, Alexandra Trelle,states that “Some individuals exhibit remarkable maintenance of memory function throughout late adulthood, whereas others experience significant memory decline. Studying these differences across individuals is critical for understanding the complexities of brain aging, including how to promote resilience and longevity.” Yes, indeed, having the key to promote these assets is absolutely crucial, for positive changes to take place.
Taking a Look at the Research
Adding to previous research which concentrated on young populations; as an element of Stanford’s Aging and Memory Study, Trelle et al., put a spotlight on older adults’ memory recall. The latest copy of the journal, eLife, has published their findings. These show that the “team has found that memory recall processes in the brains of older adults, can look very similar to those previously observed in the brains of young adults. However, for those seniors who had more trouble remembering, evidence for these processes was noticeably diminished.”
These researchers hope to someday enable earlier and more precise predictions of when memory failures signal increased risk for dementia
Just the First Step in a Long Journey
Stanford’s project is ground-breaking, in that it had cemented the foundation for a substantial number of future research studies relating to older adults’ memory, within Stanford’s Aging and Memory Study cohort. These are set to incorporate “work to further detail the process of memory creation and recall, studies of change in memory performance over time, and research that pairs fMRI studies with other kinds of health data.” The latter include the build-up of proteins in the brain, and transformations in brain structure, both of which are related to Alzheimer’s.
Looking at the Ultimate Aim
The final goal of this long project, which involves a large number of eager, devoted scientists, is to develop new and sensitive tools to identify individuals who are at increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease before significant memory decline occurs. Clearly this is needed right now, and we hope that more breakthroughs will swiftly follow. Anthony Wagner, one of the current study authors, who is a Lucie Stern Professor in the Social Sciences, notes that they are starting to ask whether individual differences in the ability to mentally travel back in time can be explained by symptom-less disease that impacts the brain and predicts future clinical diagnosis. He states that they hope that their work will inform clinical problems and advance human health. We hope the same.