Spatial memory often deteriorates with age. It’s crucial to comprehend the impacted processes in aging to devise strategies for enhancing well-being. Everyday memory retention can be swayed by events occurring at the time of learning or by early life experiences.
Memory attenuation in the young can be mitigated, leading to prolonged memory retention when a new event coincides with memory encoding, a phenomenon referred to as behavioral tagging. In a recent study built upon this concept, researchers Alexandra Gros and Szu-Han Wang from the University of Edinburgh explored the affected processes in aging and investigated whether prior training can rescue them.
The findings were recently published in the journal Aging.
“Here we asked if cognitive training in young and mid-life would improve cognitive aging and which elements of the cognitive processes at old age are preferentially protected through such training.”
Two groups of aged rats received training in an appetitive delayed matching-to-place task. One of the groups additionally received prior training in the same task in the young and in mid-life, constituting a longitudinal study. The results showed long-term memory decline in late aging without prior training. This would reflect affected encoding and consolidation.
On the other hand, short-term memory was preserved and novelty at memory reactivation and reconsolidation enabled memory maintenance in aging. Prior training improved cognition by facilitating task performance, strengthening short-term and intermediate memory, and enabling encoding-boosted long-term memory.
Learning ability, short-term memories, and motor and motivation functions remained intact in older age, suggesting a phase when memory-associated processes are compromised before apparent navigation or learning deficits in advanced aging. Overall, the study’s findings suggest a selective impairment in encoding for long-term memory formation in early aging and an additional impairment in consolidation in later aging.
“Prior training shows profound benefits in cognitive aging and it can provide a translatable model to simulate human cognition which is built upon lifelong experiences.”
Reference: “Cognitive rescue in aging through prior training in rats” by Alexandra Gros and Szu-Han Wang, 19 June 2023, Aging.