Chronic brain inflammation ‘linked to memory loss in older adults’

April 14th, 2011 - 5:53 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, April 14 (ANI): Chronic brain inflammation has been linked to some elements of memory decline in otherwise cognitively normal older adults, according to a new study.

Inflammation is part of the body’s natural immune response to tissue damage. However, chronic inflammation is associated with many diseases.

In the brain, it is thought to play a role in aging and neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

Studies in animals have shown that prolonged brain inflammation impairs function of the hippocampus, a region of the brain involved in storing and generating memory. It does so by disrupting the establishment of memories, a process known as long term potentiation.

Now, the scientists in the new study hypothesized that the presence of C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker of chronic low grade inflammation in the brain, would be associated with poorer memory creation and smaller medial-temporal lobes, which include the hippocampus.

They examined 76 women and men (mean age 71.8) with detectible levels of CRP in their blood, and 65 people (mean age 70.8) with undetectable levels.

All participants were given a 16-word list learning task to measure verbal recall, and underwent magnetic resonance imaging, MRI, to measure volumes of regions of the medial temporal lobes, specifically the hippocampus, entorhinal cortex and parahippocampal cortex.

The results showed that adults with measurable levels of C reactive protein recalled fewer words and had smaller medial temporal lobes.

Scientists don’t know if the inflammation indicated by the C reactive protein is the cause of the memory loss, if it reflects a response to some other disease process or if the two factors are unrelated.

But if inflammation causes the cognitive decline, relatively simple treatments could help, said Joel H. Kramer, UCSF clinical professor of neuropsychology and the director of the neuropsychology program at the UCSF Memory and Aging Center.

The study was reported in a poster session at the American Academy of Neurology annual meeting on April 13, 2011. (ANI)

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