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Genetic switch makes old mice forgetful

Reversing chemical change restores memory-making ability

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5:14pm, May 6, 2010

Researchers may have found a clue to age-related memory loss among the coiled strands of DNA in the brain cells of elderly mice. If the process they unraveled also occurs in humans, the discovery could lead to new ways of helping older people remember.

In the new study, researchers found that older mice have less of a kind of genetic packing material that helps strands of DNA involved in the memory formation process spring into action.

Like older humans, elderly mice often don’t remember where they were when something happened. In the study, published May 7 in Science, researchers put mice into a box with particular lighting, smells and other cues the animals should remember, and then delivered a foot shock. Young mice, encountering the same box 24 hours later, remembered the foreboding place and froze in fear. But middle-aged 16-month-old mice had trouble recalling the danger and scurried about unafraid.

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