Improving Memory

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Status: In-progress
Year: 2018
Funded: $99,950
Grant Type: Major Project Grant

Ageing produces a decline in memory. Age-related degeneration, for example in Alzheimer’s disease, produces a devastating loss of memory. There has been a growing recognition that memory loss is associated with declining function in the brain’s “retrosplenial cortex”. This region is located at the back of the brain, near the midline in each hemisphere. It is strategically located and has connections with many other brain regions associated with memory.

Optogenetics, a gene-based therapy permitting highly targeted stimulation of specific neurons in a given region, may provide a basis of new treatments for memory impairment. Our project will use this technique to test the beneficial effects of stimulating the retrosplenial cortex in aged rats, as a model of memory decline in human ageing. We will use the theta rhythmic frequency, which is particularly associated with good memory performance in younger rats and so should improve memory in older ones.

We will then determine whether this stimulation has the same effect when it is restricted to initial learning only or to recall only. This project could provide a basis for further research on new therapeutics to improve memory affected by dementia and various neurological conditions such as stroke or severe head injury. 

Researcher // Dr Yue Pei – University of Canterbury


What is Alzheimers Disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and, eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest tasks. In most people with the disease—those with the late-onset type—symptoms first appear in their mid-60s. Early-onset Alzheimer’s occurs between a person’s 30s and mid-60s and is very rare. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia among older adults.

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Almost 70,000 Kiwis are living with dementia today.
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More than 170,000 Kiwis will be living with dementia by 2050.
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Dementia impacts 30% more women than men.
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The total cost of dementia care in NZ, this will reach around $5b by 2050.

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