September 16, 2010

Forgetful? It May Be More Than Old Age.

(Ivanhoe Newswire) "“ Becoming forgetful may be more than just a function of old age. According to a new study, the same brain lesions that are associated with dementia are responsible for mild memory loss in old age.

"It appears these brain lesions have a much greater impact on memory function in old age than we previously thought," study author Robert S. Wilson, PhD, at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, was quoted as saying. "Our results challenge the concept of normal memory aging and hint at the possibility that these lesions play a role in virtually all late-life memory loss."

Three-hundred-fifty Catholic nuns, priests and brothers were given memory tests annually for up to 13 years. Tests included word list recall, naming, verbal, number and reading assessments. After death, the participants' brains were studied for lesions.

The study found that memory decline tended to be gradual, speeding up in the last four to five years of life. Tangles, Lewy bodies, and stroke were all related to gradual memory decline. Almost no gradual decline was seen in the absence of tangles. Both Lewy bodies and stroke approximately doubled the rate of memory decline. Tangles and Lewy bodies were also related to rapid memory decline but failed to fully explain the effect.
"Understanding how and when these brain lesions affect memory as we age," said Wilson, "will likely be critical to efforts to develop treatments that delay memory loss in old age."

SOURCE: Neurology®, online, September 15, 2010.