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As time goes by, it gets tougher to 'just remember this'
Date:5/13/2011

p>"Maybe this is also why we tend to reminisce so much more as we get older: because it is easier to recall old memories than make new ones," Yassa speculated.

The study appears in the May 9 Early Online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and is available at www.pnas.org/content/early/2011/05/05/1101567108.

Yassa and his team used MRI scans to observe the brains of 40 healthy young college students and older adults, ages 60 to 80, while these participants viewed pictures of everyday objects such as pineapples, test tubes and tractors and classified each -- by pressing a button -- as either "indoor" or "outdoor." (The team used three kinds of MRI scans in the study: structural MRI scans, which detect structural abnormalities; functional MRI scans, which document how hard various regions of the brain work during tasks; and diffusion MRIs, which monitor how well different regions of the brain communicate by tracking the movement of water molecules along pathways.)

Some of the pictures were similar but not identical, and others were markedly different. The team used functional MRI to watch the hippocampus when participants saw items that were exactly the same or slightly different to ascertain how this region of the brain classified that item: as familiar or not.

"Pictures had to be very distinct from each other for an older person's hippocampus to correctly classify them as new. The more similar the pictures were, the more the older person's hippocampus struggled to do this. A young person's hippocampus, on the other hand, treated all of these similar pictures as new," Yassa explained.

Later, the participants viewed a series of completely new pictures (all different) and again were asked to classify them as either "indoor" or "outdoor." A few minutes later, the researchers pre
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Contact: Lisa De Nike
Lde@jhu.edu
443-287-9960
Johns Hopkins University
Source:Eurekalert

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