Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Hippocampus and the Research

The human brain has a hippocampus buried deep in each half.  It helps process short term memory and to navigate through a space.  It is one of the earliest portions of the brain damaged by Alzheimer's.

If the hippocampus is a key component in the creation of memories and moving an experience from short term to long term memory, then damage to the hippocampus will prevent the person from learning and retaining new information and experiences.  Alzheimer's patients how this lack of ability.  The other impact to damage to the hippocampus is that the person can no longer successfully navigate.  Sound familiar?  Going from spot A to spot B is now an unknown even if you've been there a million times before.

We've seen both with Lyn.  She cannot tell me what she did yesterday unless she's prompted.  She does not know the routes between places any longer.  She doesn't know the way to Santa Fe.  She doesn't know the way home.  These factor into her anxieties.

So, where does the research come in?  Researchers at Northwestern University just published a study in the Journal of Neuroscience which indicates one type of cell in the hippocampus can become more active as the brain's owner (in this case rats) ages than another cell.  The more active cell in this study is the CA3 Pyramidal Neuron.  The research is interesting because it suggests that facilitating the increase in CA3 activity while the other cell activity is decreasing is a potential treatment approach.

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