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Aging Brains

August 23, 2011

Age-related working memory loss may be at least partly reversible.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Tapping into young minds.  I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

As we age, our thinking gets fuzzier.  Now, Yale University researchers have not only found one reason why, but also the possibility of reversing it.  Neurobiologist Amy Arnsten and her colleagues studied monkeys performing a working memory challenge.  Older monkeys had less activity in one part of the brain’s prefrontal cortex.  Anrsten says the neurons there were stifled by a signaling molecule called cyclic AMP, which older brains have more of.

ARNSTEN:

So we sprinkled onto the neurons, drugs that block cyclic AMP, and we were able to rescue firing.  And that was really wonderful.

HIRSHON:

What’s more, an existing drug used to treat high blood pressure and attention deficit disorder seems to have a similar effect.  Clinical trials are already underway to find out if the drug can safely improve mental functioning in otherwise healthy older adults.   I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.