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Memory-related Brain Areas become Smaller and Lose Cohesion as People Age: Study

The researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging to record healthy people's brain activity

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Representational image. Pixabay
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November 25, 2016: Various brain regions that once synchronised their activity during memory tasks become smaller and lose cohesion as people age, says a study.

In the study, researchers from Princeton University in New Jersey, US, described a novel method to characterise and compare the brain dynamics of individual people.

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The research showed that regardless of whether we were using memory, directing attention, or resting, the number of synchronous groups of connections within our brain was consistent.

However, between different individuals, these numbers vary dramatically.

In fact, during memory specific actions, variations between people are closely linked to age.

Younger participants have only a few large synchronous groups that link nearly the entire brain in coordinated activity, while older participants show progressively more but smaller groups of connections.

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In the older group this indicates loss of cohesive brain activity — even in the absence of memory impairment, the authors noted.

“This method elegantly captures important differences between individual brains, which are often complex and difficult to describe,” said Elizabeth Davison from Princeton University.

“The resulting tools show promise for understanding how different brain characteristics are related to behaviour, health, and disease,” Davison added.

For the study, the researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to record healthy people’s brain activity during memory tasks, attention tasks, and at rest.

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For each person, the fMRI data was recast as a network composed of brain regions and the connections between them.

The scientists then use this network to measure how closely different groups of connections changed together over time.

The study was published in the journal PLOS Computational Biology. (IANS)

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Brain’s memory area might be associated with anxiety and depression

Addiction, for example, could be linked to deficits of approach motivation. Anxiety and depression on the other hand could be linked to avoidance behaviours

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Sleep spindles can help in memory retention. Pixabay
Brain's memory can be affected by Depression and Anxiety. Pixabay

An area of the brain, commonly linked with memory and dementia, could also yield important clues about a range of mental health illnesses including addiction, anxiety and depression, a study has found.

The area, known as hippocampus, is a seahorse-shaped structure located deep inside the brain. As part of the limbic system, it plays an important role in memory processing and spatial cognition, including how mammals learn to understand and navigate their environment. Hippocampus have been long known for its role in memory and dementia, especially in relation to Alzheimer’s disease. In Alzheimer’s patients for instance, this region is one of the first areas of the brain to suffer damage.

Victimization in early school days leads to anxiety. Pixabay
Anxiety can cause avoidance behaviour. Pixabay

The study, published in the journal Current Biology, revealed that because hippocampus plays a role in basic motivational behaviour, it may also offer important insights into a range of mental health illnesses. Addiction, for example, could be linked to deficits of approach motivation. Anxiety and depression on the other hand could be linked to avoidance behaviours, all of which could manifest itself in this part of the brain, Ito said.

Also Read: Women with larger waistline are at higher risk of anxiety

“Some patients have lesions to certain areas of this part of the brain, so hopefully we can assess them to see what particular aspects of approach avoidance behaviour may or may not be impacted,” the researchers said. IANS

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