Aging and the Mechanisms of Forgetting

Scientists continue to investigate the mechanisms underlying changes in memory with age - with an eye to preventing those changes: "rats become forgetful because a routine part of the memory process falls out of kilter, no matter their ages. This change seems to be related to the chemicals necessary for brain cells to communicate with each other. ... Aging is associated with an increased rate of forgetting. My work indicates that the problem may be a slight shift in a normal forgetting mechanism. ... This same mechanism probably is used to clear the brain circuits and make them ready to be used the next day. However, this mechanism in excess may lead to rapid forgetting as seen during brain aging ... as we begin to understand the mechanisms of memory, it becomes possible to predict promising targets for therapeutic strategies aimed at postponing or alleviating age-related memory impairment ... The basic gist is that information storage requires a balance between mechanisms that make synapses stronger and weaker. In aging and disease, if that balance is [disrupted], the unchecked synaptic weakening leads to memory loss. The good news is we are developing a good understanding of these mechanisms, and that will help us find ways to protect memory."



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