Novel mechanism 'could be leading to slowing of brain functions'

2 February 2012

People who seek out a brain scan to detail why their minds fail to function as efficiently when they grow older have been given new insight into the cause behind the condition.

A research piece, entitled 'Age-related changes to Na+ channel gating contribute to modified intrinsic neuronal excitability', has disclosed that a novel mechanism could cause the brain to slow its functioning when a person reaches their elder years.

Published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging, the team behind the study, from the University of Bristol, detailed that the mechanism has the capability to alter the activity of brain neurons.

As a result of these changes, a brain may suffer cognitive decline, which could then lead to knock-on effects on memory and speech.

Professor Andy Randall, a lead author on the research and a specialist in Applied Neurophysiology, noted: "Previous investigations elsewhere have described age-related changes in processes that are triggered by action potentials, but our findings are significant because they show that generating the action potential in the first place is harder work in aged brain cells."

Meanwhile, researchers at the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute at the University of California have managed to record an individual's thoughts and then translate them into words, in a development which could potentially give speech to the speechless.

Posted by Edward Bartel

Randall, Brown et al. "Age-related changes to Na+ channel gating contribute to modified intrinsic neuronal excitability". Neurobiology of Aging. February 1st 2012.

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