According to researchers, the cause of age-related memory loss, which can make us forget where we put certain things for example, has been reversed in monkeys. The study scientists restored a chemical imbalance in the brains of the elderly monkeys, and as a result, the aging brain cells were turned into young ones. As a result, the brains of the old monkeys were able to sustain working memory, through which the brain can keep an piece of information for a brief period of time.
Working memory improved in monkeys
Researchers have used monkeys as model for human brain studies for a very long time now. However, that does not mean that what works in the case of monkeys, works for humans as well. The researchers will need to do extra researchers in order to see if the discovery can be applied in the case of humans as well. Carol Barnes, Director of the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute at the University of Arizona, stated that the working memory is very vulnerable, because it usually starts to decline when people reach the age of 30.
Barnes said that it is very important to know the way in which memory changes in the various brain regions, because only then the researchers will be able to do something about the problem. The monkeys included in the study were split into three different groups: young with ages between 7 and 9, middle with ages between 12 and 13, and old with ages between 17 and 21. The young ones were the equivalent of people with ages between 21-27, the middle ones between 36 and 39, and the old ones between 51 and 63.
The researchers used special tiny probes in order to watch the cells from each monkey’s prefrontal cortex. This is the area where the memories are formed and stored. They analyzed these cells while the monkeys performed a memory task. They had to remember the location of a present in a computer simulation for 2.5 seconds. It seems that the older monkeys got very frustrated if they did not do well, and they stopped playing.
In this trial, the older monkeys were successful, but in the longer ones which lasted up to 5 seconds, they could not do it. The researchers knew that a chemical called cyclic AMP is responsible for forming memory in the prefrontal cortex. The researchers observed that they could use certain drugs in order to improve the working memory. The researchers injected the drugs directly into the brain.
The effects of drugs which can block the cyclic AMP have been used before, but prior to this experiment, they were injected strictly in the body. The researchers would like to see if the drug has the same effects in the case of the humans. They stated that they need to be careful, because if they modify the cyclic AMP in the wrong manner, there could be terrible side effects. The problem is that some parts of the brain need high values of cyclic AMP, so blocking it could cause some problems.