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NO MEMORY LOSS. It’s only distraction that gets to the elderly

NEW studies in memory research are providing exciting clues about memory loss and how to prevent it.

Distractions Rather Than Attention

One study shows that the short-term memory problems that generally accompany aging are more a matter of an inability to filter out distractions than problems with focusing attention.

Young adults aged 19 to 30 were compared with older adults aged 60 to 77 using a simple memory test that introduced irrelevant information.

The tests were conducted while the subjects were being scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) so that activity in the brain could be pinpointed.

Brain Activity Measured

While the younger subjects were able to suppress brain activity in areas that process irrelevant information, older adults were generally unable to suppress the distracting information.

However, both groups had similar brain activity in the areas dealing with information relevant to the task.
This could be the key to many cognitive problems accompanying aging.

Now that areas of the brain that are markers for focusing and ignoring visual information have been identified, it may be possible to use this knowledge to better assess therapies designed to treat cognitive disorders.

How Fish Oil Works

In other memory-related news, scientists have discovered the mechanism by which the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oils can help protect the brain against the cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer's disease.

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) -- the most important of the omega-3 fats -- reduces the levels of a protein known to cause damage in the brains of Alzheimer's patients.

They also discovered that a derivative of the fatty acid called neuroprotectin D1 (NPD1) is formed in the human brain, and is essential in protecting against brain cell death.

It is clear that animal-based omega-3 fats, not plant-based ones like flax seeds, provide the benefits.

Source: Journal of Clinical Investigation Sept2005