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Friday, March 8, 2013
I found the following article fascinating! Hope you do, too.
"A new study out of Georgia Health Sciences University may help explain why some seniors have difficulty forming new memories. The research, which was published in the journal Scientific Reports, may prove useful to caregivers of seniors who are undergoing Alzheimer's care.
Researchers found that older adults may have difficulty filtering out and eliminating old information, which could, in turn, make it harder to pick up new information.
'When you are young, your brain is able to strengthen certain connections and weaken certain connections to make new memories,' said Dr. Joe Z. Tsien, neuroscientist at the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University.
Tsien and his colleagues were looking at the NMDA receptor in the brain's hippocampus, which functions as a 'switch' to regulate memory and learning skills. The NMDA receptor uses two subunits known as NR2A and NR2B. The latter is more common in the brains of children, and allows youngsters to 'optimize learning and memory.' However, once children go through puberty, the ratio switches, resulting in higher percentages of NR2A.
The researchers altered the genes of mice so their brains would mimic the ratio of NR2A versus NR2B in adult brains. Much to their surprise, the scientists found their genetically modified rodent subjects were still able to make strong connections between thoughts, as well as form short-term memories, but were less able to make new, long-term memories. They were also less able to weaken some connections in the brain, which isn't necessarily a good thing.
Why would it be beneficial for the brain to weaken connections? Essentially, in order to pick up new information, the brain must be able to get rid of certain thoughts or memories that are no longer important.
The research may help explain why older adults have a harder time learning a new language without getting rid of their old accent, for example. Tsien also suggested the study could provide insight into why older people 'tend to be more stuck in their ways.'
Older adults in assisted living homes can take advantage of classes and activities that stimulate the brain, which could in turn stave off cognitive decline and expand their skill sets. Some seniors may want to join a book club, audit a class at a local college or simply spend time playing games or completing word puzzles to keep their minds healthy."
More on the brain and clutter:
Clutter and the Brain
Yale Study - Why Letting Go Is Literally Painful
Organizing According to Your Right- or Left-Brain Dominance