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Extending lifespan has mixed effects on learning and memory
Date:5/19/2010

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The scientists also studied worms with genetic mutations that allowed the researchers to assess separately the impact of reducing the activity in the insulin-signaling pathway. In contrast to the worms that were eating less, the worms with reduced insulin signaling demonstrated improved long-term memory performance in early adulthood and maintained learning ability better with age. However, these worms were not protected against age-related declines in long-term memory.

The team also found that molecular mechanisms underlying cognitive function in worms are the same as those previously discovered in higher organisms, including mammals, suggesting that the study has far-reaching implications.

C. elegans has long been used for research on aging and longevity, owing to the worm's simple nervous system, relatively short lifespan of just two to three weeks, and the fact that the worms experience many signs of aging. This includes reduced motility and muscle deterioration, which are seen in other organisms, including humans. Additionally, scientists conducting extensive work on the worms previously have identified several C. elegans mutants with long lifespans, which provide opportunities to explore the molecular and genetic pathways that allow these mutants to live up to 50 percent longer than normal worms. Previous research in this area includes extensive work over the past two decades by Cynthia Kenyon and her research team at the University of California, San Francisco to identify the genes that affect longevity in C. elegans. Murphy, currently Princeton's Richard B. Fisher Preceptor in Integrative Genomics, was a postdoctoral scientist in Kenyon's lab from 2000 until 2005.

Until now, however, scientists have not known whether the roundworms experience declines in cognitive function related to age that are so often seen in humans, Murphy said. Also unknown was whether such declines, if they exist, affect mutan
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Contact: Kitta MacPherson
kittamac@princeton.edu
609-258-5729
Princeton University
Source:Eurekalert  

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