June 2019 Newsletter
Study of ‘SuperAgers’ offers genetic clues to performance
All humans experience some cognitive decline as they age. But how is it that some people in their 80s and beyond still have memory capacity of those 30 or more years younger? Recent studies have shown that these SuperAgers have less evidence of brain atrophy, have thicker parts of the brain related to memory, and lower prevalence of the pathological changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Now, a study by the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), an affiliate of City of Hope, and Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine suggests that having resilient memory performance during aging could be inherited, and that a particular gene might be associated with SuperAgers.
Feeling distracted? Your focus dips four times per second
Are you focusing exclusively on this sentence? Spoiler: You are not, and you can thank the neuron activity in your brain for that. After two studies examined both monkeys (macaques) and human beings in similar setups, researchers discovered our attention is not as fluid as we believe it to be, acting less like a spotlight and more like a strobe. Your brain does not “unfocus” per se but merely conducts a check on your surrounding to see if it should focus on something else, explained Ian Fiebelkorn, who worked on the macaque-focused study and is a cognitive neuroscientist at Princeton University.
Why don’t we forget how to ride a bike?
Most of us learn how to ride a bike during childhood. But as we grow older, many of us stop riding and put those once-beloved bikes in storage. Years later, when we discover these relics and hop on, it’s as if we never stopped biking. This is surprising because our memories let us down in so many other instances, such as remembering the name of a place or a person we once knew or where we put our keys. So how is it that we can ride a bicycle when we haven’t done so in years? As it turns out, different types of memories are stored in distinct regions of our brains.