Cognitive decline with age is a natural part of life, but it is not inevitable say researchers.
If you can't seem to remember things as well as you used to, the problem may well be with the GluN2B subunits in your NMDA receptors.
Research on these biochemical processes in the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University is making it clear that cognitive decline with age is a natural part of life, and scientists are tracking the problem down to highly specific components of the brain.
Kathy Magnusson, a neuroscientist in the OSU Department of Biomedical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, and professor in the Linus Pauling Institute said that these are biological processes, and once we fully understand what is going on, we may be able to slow or prevent it.
Magnusson said that there may be ways to influence it with diet, health habits, continued mental activity or even drugs.
Researchers found that one protein that stabilizes receptors in a young animal- a good thing conducive to learning and memory - can have just the opposite effect if there's too much of it in an older animal.
In recent research, scientists used a genetic therapy in laboratory mice, in which a virus helped carry complementary DNA into appropriate cells and restored some GluN2B subunits. Tests showed that it helped mice improve their memory and cognitive ability.
Magnusson said that the NMDA receptor plays a role in memory and learning but isn't active all the time.
Within the NMDA receptor are various subunits, and Magnusson said that research keeps pointing back to the GluN2B subunit as one of the most important.
Infants and children have lots of them, and as a result are like a sponge in soaking up memories and learning new things. But they gradually dwindle in number with age, and it also appears the ones that are left work less efficiently.
The study is published in the Journal of Neuroscience.