Key Brain Receptors Linked To Learning and Memory Decrease with Age

Sep 11, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Scientists studying cognitive decline that accompanies aging have been interested in nicotinic receptors, part of a key neural pathway that not only enhances learning and memory skills but reinforces addictions as well. The loss of these receptors has been difficult to study in living subjects, but Yale University researchers using advanced imaging technology have successfully tracked the loss of receptors with age, according to a report in the September issue of the journal Neurobiology of Aging.

“Measurable decline in cognitive abilities is evident by 50, but our knowledge of the changes in the brain associated with these deficits has been largely confined to post-mortem studies,” said Christopher H. van Dyck, senior author of the study and Professor of Psychiatry and Neurobiology and Director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Unit.

The Yale University researchers used SPECT imaging to track concentrations of nicotinic receptors in eight brain regions of 47 subjects aged 18 to 85. They observed an age-related loss of receptors in seven of eight brain regions, at a rate of about 5 percent per decade of life.

Nicotinic receptors reinforce addictions such as smoking, but also facilitate learning and memory. Autopsies of patients have revealed a significant decline of these receptors.

“Nicotinic receptors are such promising targets that pharmaceutical companies are currently exploring nicotine analogues as potential treatments for Alzheimer’s disease and Mild Cognitive Impairment,” van Dyck said.

The findings are additional evidence that nicotinic receptors may play a role in the cognitive decline associated with normal aging. “These results may encourage the broadening of therapeutic trials to target the associated with healthy aging,” van Dyck said.

Other Yale authors of the paper are Effie M. Mitsis, Kelly P. Cosgrove, Julie K. Staley, Frederic Bois, Erin B. Frohlich, Gilles D. Tamagnan, Kristina M. Estok and John P. Seibyl.

Provided by Yale University (news : web)

Explore further: REM sleep critical for young brain development; medication interferes

Related Stories

Source of cognitive decline in aging brains

Jan 07, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- As people age, memory and the ability to carry out tasks often decline. Scientists looking for ways to lessen that decline often have focused on the "gray matter" -- the cortical regions where high-level ...

New treatment mechanisms for schizophrenia

Jan 08, 2008

The field of schizophrenia research has come alive with many exciting new potential approaches to treatment. From the introduction of chlorpromazine to the current day, all treatments approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ...

Recommended for you

Making waves with groundbreaking brain research

14 hours ago

New research by Jason Gallivan and Randy Flanagan suggests that when deciding which of several possible actions to perform, the human brain plans multiple actions simultaneously prior to selecting one of ...

Long-term memories are maintained by prion-like proteins

Jul 02, 2015

Research from Eric Kandel's lab at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) has uncovered further evidence of a system in the brain that persistently maintains memories for long periods of time. And paradoxically, ...

Water to understand the brain

Jul 02, 2015

To observe the brain in action, scientists and physicians use imaging techniques, among which functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is the best known. These techniques are not based on direct observations ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.