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The Department of Biomedicine

BBB Seminar: Carol A. Barnes

Neural correlates of memory change in normal aging

Carol A. Barnes, Departments of Psychology, Neurology and Biology and Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, USA

Aging is associated with specific impairments of learning and memory, some of which are similar to those caused by hippocampal damage. For example, healthy older humans, monkeys and rats all show poorer hippocampal-dependent spatial memory, than do their younger counterparts. Anatomical and electrophysiological studies indicate that the hippocampus of the aged rat sustains a loss of synapses in the dentate gyrus, and a loss of functional synapses in area CA1. Such alterations may contribute to observed age-related impairments of synaptic plasticity, and appear to result in changes in the dynamic interactions among cells in hippocampal networks, causing deficits in the storage and retrieval of information. Studies will be reviewed that link changes in cognition to deficits in these plasticity mechanisms and altered hippocampal network dynamics, including experience-dependent place field expansion plasticity.

Finally, experiments will be described that highlight the specificity of changes in the aged hippocampus, pointing to the dentate gyrus in rats and monkeys as being particularly vulnerable in normal aging, a pattern that is quite distinct from that observed in Alzheimer’s disease.


Host: Boleslaw Srebro (bolek.srebro@biomed.uib.no), Department of Biomedicine