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A Moment of Science

Losing Your Mind, Literally

How is your grandparents' memory? Your great grandparents'? What happens to your mind as you grow old?

reflections of a man holding a mirror in front of his face

Photo: Fred Hasselman

A study of people over 60 complaining of significant memory loss found that they had lost around 3% of the parts of the brain involved with memory.

When you’re young, it’s hard to imagine being old. Losing your hair, your vision, your hearing, your memory, your brain…literally.

A study of people over 60 complaining of significant memory loss found that they had lost around 3% of the parts of the brain involved with memory.

The patients did not have Alzheimer’s or MCI, which stands for mild cognitive impairment. They just had memory problems that are, at the very least, associated with the fact that their brains have shrunk.

What does this mean?

Well, it could help doctors make earlier diagnoses of MCI and Alzheimer’s. While older people with memory problems lost 3% of their grey matter, those with MCI lost nearly 4%; there seems to be a continuum. Losing part of your brain could mean that you’re bound to lose more, and graduate from normal memory loss to something more serious, like Alzheimer’s.

Also, knowing more about how memory loss is connected to loss of brain matter could help scientists come up with better drugs and treatments for Alzheimer’s and other diseases.

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