Why Aging Makes It Hard to Learn New Tricks
Like theِ saying, You can’tِ teach anِ old dog newِ tricks, theِ aging human brain hasِ a tough time learning fromِ new experiences, suggests a study onِ rats showing tiny brain-cell structures needed forِ this process getِ quite rigid inِ their twilight years.
The researchers looked atِ the prefrontal cortex, theِ brain region thatِ controls variousِ cognitive processes andِ plays a role inِ higher learning.
They knew thatِ brain cells inِ the prefrontal cortex ofِ young animals areِ really flexible, orِ plastic.
To find outِ howِ stress affects thisِ plasticity inِ aging brains, theِ researchers exposed young, middle-age andِ old rats toِ a stressor knownِ to elicit nerve cell changesِ in theِ prefrontal cortex.
After stressing outِ the rats, theِ researchers looked atِ close-up images ofِ structures onِ nerve cells called spines thatِ form synapses andِ are critical forِ learning.
These spines areِ modified whenِ you learn something, saidِ study researcher John Morrison, a professor ofِ neuroscience atِ Mount Sinai School ofِ Medicine.
That lack ofِ rewiring ability mayِ beِ responsible forِ cognitive decline inِ aging adults, heِ added.
He saidِ that thisِ type ofِ study isِ important becauseِ it mayِ reveal changesِ in brain cells thatِ occur inِ anِ early stage ofِ Alzheimer’s disease, beforeِ the neurons actuallyِ die.
In fact, noِ other animal exceptِ humans show naturally occurring Alzheimer’s; inِ animal models ofِ the disease, researchers mustِ modify theِ rats orِ monkeys toِ induce Alzheimer’s.
The research is detailed in the May 25 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.
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