Age-related impairments in memory are often attributed to failures, at either systems or molecular levels, of memory storage processes. A major characteristic of changes in memory with increasing age is the advent of forgetfulness in old vs. young animals. This review examines the contribution of a dysfunction of the mechanisms responsible for modulating the maintenance of memory in aged rats. A memory-modulating system that includes epinephrine, acting through release of glucose from liver glycogen stores, potently enhances memory in young rats. In old rats, epinephrine loses its ability to release glucose and loses its efficacy in enhancing memory. Brain measures of extracellular levels of glucose in the hippocampus during memory testing show decreases in glucose in both young and old rats, but the decreases are markedly greater in extent and duration in old rats. Importantly, the old rats do not have the ability to increase blood glucose levels in response to arousal-related epinephrine release, which is retained and even increased in aged rats. Glucose appears to be able to reverse fully the increased rate of forgetting seen in old rats. This set of findings suggests that physiological mechanisms outside of the brain, i.e. changes in neuroendocrine functions, may contribute substantially to the onset of rapid forgetting in aged animals.
- Age-related memory impairments
- Brain metabolism and memory
- Memory consolidation and modulation
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Cognitive Neuroscience
- Behavioral Neuroscience