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How hearing loss in old age affects the brain

Date:
April 23, 2020
Source:
Ruhr-University Bochum
Summary:
If your hearing deteriorates in old age, the risk of dementia and cognitive decline increases. So far, it hasn't been clear why. A team of neuroscientists has examined what happens in the brain when hearing gradually deteriorates: key areas of the brain are reorganized, and this affects memory.
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If your hearing deteriorates in old age, the risk of dementia and cognitive decline increases. So far, it hasn't been clear why. A team of neuroscientists has examined what happens in the brain when hearing gradually deteriorates: key areas of the brain are reorganized, and this affects memory.

Daniela Beckmann, Mirko Feldmann, Olena Shchyglo and Professor Denise Manahan-Vaughan from the Department of Neurophysiology of the Medical Faculty worked together for the study.

When sensory perception fades

The researchers studied the brain of mice that exhibit hereditary hearing loss, similar to age related hearing loss in humans. The scientists analysed the density of neurotransmitter receptors in the brain that are crucial for memory formation. They also researched the extent to which information storage in the brain's most important memory organ, the hippocampus, was affected.

Adaptability of the brain suffers

Memory is enabled by a process called synaptic plasticity. In the hippocampus, synaptic plasticity was chronically impaired by progressive hearing loss. The distribution and density of neurotransmitter receptors in sensory and memory regions of the brain also changed constantly. The stronger the hearing impairment, the poorer were both synaptic plasticity and memory ability.

"Our results provide new insights into the putative cause of the relationship between cognitive decline and age-related hearing loss in humans," said Denise Manahan-Vaughan. "We believe that the constant changes in neurotransmitter receptor expression caused by progressive hearing loss create shifting sands at the level of sensory information processing that prevent the hippocampus from working effectively," she adds.


Story Source:

Materials provided by Ruhr-University Bochum. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Denise Manahan-Vaughan, Olena Shchyglo, Mirko Feldmann, Daniela Beckmann. Hippocampal Synaptic Plasticity, Spatial Memory, and Neurotransmitter Receptor Expression Are Profoundly Altered by Gradual Loss of Hearing Ability. Cerebral Cortex, 2020; DOI: 10.1093/cercor/bhaa061

Cite This Page:

Ruhr-University Bochum. "How hearing loss in old age affects the brain." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 April 2020. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/04/200423130446.htm>.
Ruhr-University Bochum. (2020, April 23). How hearing loss in old age affects the brain. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 26, 2024 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/04/200423130446.htm
Ruhr-University Bochum. "How hearing loss in old age affects the brain." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/04/200423130446.htm (accessed May 26, 2024).

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