Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Learning keeps brain healthy: Mental activity could stave off age-related cognitive and memory decline

Date:
March 3, 2010
Source:
University of California - Irvine
Summary:
Neurobiologists are providing the first visual evidence that learning promotes brain health -- and, therefore, that mental stimulation could limit the debilitating effects of aging on memory and the mind.

New findings suggest that learning promotes brain health -- and, therefore, that mental stimulation could limit the debilitating effects of aging on memory and the mind.
Credit: iStockphoto

UC Irvine neurobiologists are providing the first visual evidence that learning promotes brain health -- and, therefore, that mental stimulation could limit the debilitating effects of aging on memory and the mind.

Using a novel visualization technique they devised to study memory, a research team led by Lulu Chen and Christine Gall found that everyday forms of learning animate neuron receptors that help keep brain cells functioning at optimum levels.

These receptors are activated by a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which facilitates the growth and differentiation of the connections, or synapses, responsible for communication among neurons. BDNF is key in the formation of memories.

"The findings confirm a critical relationship between learning and brain growth and point to ways we can amplify that relationship through possible future treatments," says Chen, a graduate researcher in anatomy & neurobiology.

Study results appear in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences for the week of March 1.

In addition to discovering that brain activity sets off BDNF signaling at the sites where neurons develop synapses, researchers determined that this process is linked to learning-related brain rhythms, called theta rhythms, vital to the encoding of new memories.

Theta rhythms occurring in the hippocampus involve numerous neurons firing synchronously at a rate of three to eight times per second. These rhythms have been associated with long-term potentiation, a cellular mechanism underlying learning and memory.

In rodent studies, the team found that both unsupervised learning and artificial application of theta rhythms triggered BDNF signaling at synapse creation sites.

"This relationship has implications for maintaining good brain health," says Gall, a professor of anatomy & neurobiology. "There is evidence that theta rhythms weaken as we age, and our discoveries suggest that this can result in memory impairment. On the other hand, they suggest that staying mentally active as we age can keep neuronal BDNF signaling at a constant rate, which may limit memory and cognitive decline."

Researchers are now exploring whether learning-induced growth signals decrease with age and, if so, whether this can be reversed with a new family of experimental drugs.

UCI psychiatry & human behavior professor Gary Lynch, postdoctoral fellow Christopher Rex, and undergraduate researchers Yas Sanaiha and Danielle Pham also worked on the study, which received support from the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Mental Health.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California - Irvine. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of California - Irvine. "Learning keeps brain healthy: Mental activity could stave off age-related cognitive and memory decline." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 March 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100302151242.htm>.
University of California - Irvine. (2010, March 3). Learning keeps brain healthy: Mental activity could stave off age-related cognitive and memory decline. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100302151242.htm
University of California - Irvine. "Learning keeps brain healthy: Mental activity could stave off age-related cognitive and memory decline." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100302151242.htm (accessed July 28, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Monday, July 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Newsy (July 27, 2014) A new study shows sleep deprivation can make it harder for people to remember specific details of an event. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
University Quiz Implies Atheists Are Smarter Than Christians

University Quiz Implies Atheists Are Smarter Than Christians

Newsy (July 25, 2014) An online quiz from a required course at Ohio State is making waves for suggesting atheists are inherently smarter than Christians. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Beatings and Addiction: Pakistan Drug 'clinic' Tortures Patients

Beatings and Addiction: Pakistan Drug 'clinic' Tortures Patients

AFP (July 24, 2014) A so-called drugs rehab 'clinic' is closed down in Pakistan after police find scores of ‘patients’ chained up alleging serial abuse. Duration 03:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) The FDA approved Targiniq ER on Wednesday, a painkiller designed to keep users from abusing it. Like any new medication, however, it has doubters. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins