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Stress 'can lead to memory loss'
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 12, 2011 2:19 pm 

Joined: Tue Mar 10, 2009 1:21 pm
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Location: Hampshire
Scientists believe they have worked out how memory loss in old age can be onset by stress.

Two receptors in older brains react to the stress hormone cortisol which has been linked to increasing forgetfulness as people age, University of Edinburgh researchers have shown.

One receptor was activated by low levels of cortisol, which aided memory, the study on mice found.

However, brain processes which contribute to memory impairment were activated once levels of the hormone were too high because they spilled over on to a second receptor.

When the receptor linked to poor memory was blocked, the memory recall problem was reversed.

Scientists say the discovery could lead to treatment for conditions such as early Alzheimer's.

Dr Joyce Yau, who led the study at the university's Centre for Cardiovascular Science, said: 'While we know that stress hormones affect memory, this research explains how the receptors they engage with can switch good memory to poorly functioning memory in old age.

'We now know that lowering the levels of these stress hormones will prevent them from activating a receptor in the brain that is bad for memory.

'Understanding the mechanisms in the brain which affect memory as we age will help us to find ways to combat conditions linked to memory loss.'

The research helps explain why too much stress over a prolonged period interferes with the normal processes in storing everyday memories, despite the fact that a little bit of stress can help people better remember emotional memories.

Scientists found that high levels of cortisol in aged mice made them less able to remember how to navigate a maze.

The study was published in the Journal of Neuroscience and was funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC).


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