Why Older People Lose Their Memory?
The stereotype of the old forgetful person whose memory often fails him is widely held, but the reason for its appearance was never really pinpointed. Much like gray hair and wrinkles, it was just thought to be part of growing old.
Now new research from Adam M. Brickman, PhD, of the Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer’s disease and the Aging Brain at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, shows that silent strokes may be the cause. Essentially small dead spots in the brain are found in one out of four elderly people.
Brickman says that: “Given that conditions like Alzheimer’s disease are defined mainly by memory problems, our results may lead to further insight into what causes symptoms and the development of new interventions for prevention. Since silent strokes and the volume of the hippocampus appeared to be associated with memory loss separately in our study, our results also support stroke prevention as a means for staving off memory problems.”
It’s not known exactly why or how Alzheimer’s destroys the brain’s memory, but research has started to show accumulations of proteins called amyloid plaques, among brain cells. Larger tangled protein strands then starts to appear inside the cells. However, treatments to remove the proteins have not been particularly successful in improving memory loss.
Brickman’s research points the investigation in a new direction, and focuses more on the vascular system. While circulation and loss of brain function from minute strokes may not be the whole solution it’s certainly an important part of it, as Brickman concludes: “What our study suggests is, even when we account for the decline in memory attributed to hippocampal shrinkage or degeneration, that strokes … play an additional role in the memory decline,” Brickman says.