As humans, our memories are one of the most powerful and distinctive things about us as individuals. But as we grow older, we seem to have trouble remembering things, which can be incredibly frustrating for ourselves and our loved ones. Science has never actually know why the aging memory of humans declines, but researchers are beginning to figure out the reasons via a new study.
The report, originally published in Nature Neuroscience, has shown that as we get older, our brain goes through structural changes which then negatively impact our sleep’s quality each night. As a result, we become less and less able to store memories long term. According to the NY Times, this is a breakthrough to what science has been assuming for a long time:
Previous research had found that the prefrontal cortex, the brain region behind the forehead, tends to lose volume with age, and that part of this region helps sustain quality sleep, which is critical to consolidating new memories. But the new experiment, led by scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, is the first to link structural changes directly with sleep-related memory problems.
The findings suggest that one way to slow memory decline in aging adults is to improve sleep, specifically the so-called slow-wave phase, which constitutes about a quarter of a normal night’s slumber.
While doctors cannot turn back time on a person’s sleep and allow them to regain their ability to remember things, this information is important to the prevention and treatment of age-related brain decline. An aging memory is terribly upsetting thing to millions of people every year, so this study will hopefully lead to more research that can, in turn, help those who are experiencing such problems.