SINGAPORE: A team of scientists from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) has revealed just how ageing affects memory, demonstrating that communication among memory-coding neurons, responsible for maintaining working memory in the brain, is disrupted as an individual grows old.

For years, scientists have delved into the impact of ageing on the brain’s executive functions, including working memory and self-control. While it has been widely acknowledged that memory tends to deteriorate with age, the specific changes at the neuron level have remained elusive until now.

What sets this research apart is its focus on the individual brain neuron level and the use of live mice for real-time observations. The findings of the NTU team was reported by the Nature Communications journal.

The Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine (LKCMedicine) team at NTU departed from previous studies that relied on nerve cells from deceased subjects. Instead, they utilized a cutting-edge optical imaging technique to monitor the live activity of individual nerve cells in mice, offering unprecedented insights into the dynamic processes within the brain.

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In a series of lab experiments, the scientists examined mice across three age groups: young, middle-aged, and old. The focus was on how neurons responded to memory-related tasks, shedding light on the cognitive changes that occur with ageing.

The results were illuminating. Middle-aged and elderly mice exhibited a decline in memory and learning abilities, as evidenced by the increased number of training sessions required to master new tasks compared to their younger counterparts. However, the research didn’t stop there; it delved deeper into the neural alterations occurring in older mice.

The findings underscore the significance of studying real-time neuronal activity, providing a nuanced understanding of the ageing brain’s intricacies. This breakthrough not only deepens our comprehension of the ageing process but also opens avenues for therapeutic interventions aimed at preserving mental well-being in ageing individuals.

As researchers continue to decipher the complexities of the brain’s ageing mechanisms, the NTU study stands as a pivotal contribution, paving the way for targeted therapies and strategies to mitigate cognitive decline associated with advancing age. The prospect of maintaining optimal mental function in the elderly takes a significant step forward with these novel insights into the communication dynamics among memory-coding neurons.