Thursday, January 31, 2013

Where Did Your Memory Go?

Has someone in your family asked why you are repeating the same question that you asked ten minutes earlier?  Are you surprised when it's hard to call up the birthday of one of your adult children?  Have you faced the embarrassment of forgetting the names of persons who just introduced themselves to you?

You are not alone. 

The Journal, Nature Neuroscience, published recently some information about what is happening to our aging brains.  Apparently structural changes in our brain occur over the course of our lives.  These changes interfere with our capacity to sleep which in turn reduces the capacity of our brain to store our memories for the long term. We need sleep to consolidate our memories.  Without it, we older persons have trouble remembering.

What can be done about this frightening situation? Scientists need to find ways to improve our sleep patterns -- particularly the "slow wave phase" that makes up about a fourth of our sleep time.  The quality of our sleep is affecting our memory.  As we age, the part of our brain behind the forehead is shrinking; this is called "natural atrophy." Due to this shrinkage, older persons get lower quality sleep. And the aging brain is unadequate to process our newly gathered information. .. . so that we remember it.

What, if anything, can we do about it? More later on this blog. 

Susanne Paul
Global Action on Aging

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