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

levels in the worms that were genetically altered to eat less were quite low, but they did not diminish with age. This could explain why these worms had poor long-term memories at a young age, but did not experience memory loss over time.

The research shows that different factors that extend longevity affect cognitive function in very different ways, having both positive and negative effects over the course of an organism's lifetime. While the work suggests that it may one day be possible to harness those mechanisms that protect against age-related memory loss in treatments that extend life and promote healthy brain functioning, Murphy pointed out that the results must be interpreted with a mix of caution and optimism in terms of potential applicability to the development of medical therapies for people.

"I'm optimistic because we know these longevity mechanisms in C. elegans are conserved in higher organisms, and there are reasons to believe that they could have similar effects on lifespan and cognitive function in humans," she said. "But these results also suggest that not every way of extending lifespan is good for cognitive function, which has huge implications for the development of therapies to maintain memory."

In future research, the biologists intend to examine the genetic underpinnings of learning, memory, and age-related cognitive decline in C. elegans using DNA microarray technology, Murphy said. Researchers in her lab also plan to use the worms to screen a library of chemicals known to be active in humans to assess their effects on age-related declines in cognitive function in worms.


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Contact: Kitta MacPherson
kittamac@princeton.edu
609-258-5729
Princeton University
Source:Eurekalert  

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