Wednesday, July 30, 2008

On senior moments, older rats, whippersnappers and science writing ...

Perhaps my senior moments are comprised more of déjà vu than forgetfulness. ScienceNow has an article titled 'To Sleep, Perchance to Forget' that informs us that
[w]hile we snooze, scientists think, our brains are busy forming new memories by replaying the events of the day. But aging may rob us of this process and set us up for having "senior moments." A new study has found that older rats seem to replay previous events less and, as a result, have more trouble remembering than younger animals.

How our brains form memories is not entirely understood, but sleep may be vital. The hippocampus region of our brain seems to rerun experiences we had while awake, a process that scientists believe helps cement memories. A team led by neuroscientist Carol Barnes at the University of Arizona, Tucson, noticed that older rats--just like older people--sometimes have trouble remembering. Could those memory problems be due to a decline in the brain's replay during sleep?

OK? What exactly in this article is new?

The findings suggest that at least some of the short-term memory loss experienced by elderly people could be due to a decline in automatic replay during sleep, says Michael Hasselmo, a neuroscientist at Boston University. The results could pave the way for treatments to improve memory, Hasselmo says, by targeting brain chemicals that play a role in replay.

So, is this a case of acquiring more information to 'suggest' that what we already 'suspect' about aging and memory loss is valid?

The study is interesting but the presentation is atrocious. Turning over the writing of science to wannabe novalists has been a monstrous mistake. Example:

Further experiments showed that the whippersnappers had a sharper memory; they were faster and more accurate than the older animals in remembering where a hidden platform was located while swimming in a tank of water.

Older rats and whippersnappers, oh my.

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