Health and Aging

Memory and Cognitive Health

Increased brain activity may compensate for amyloid pathology in older brains

Researchers have long wondered why some older people remain cognitively normal despite having abnormal levels of beta-amyloid in their brains, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. While research has shown that older adults with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), which often leads to Alzheimer’s, frequently have increased activity in the hippocampus compared to their cognitively healthy peers, scientists questioned what the hyperactivity represented. Was it helping to compensate for declining brain function or signaling onset of the disease?

Learn about participating in Alzheimer’s research in new NIH booklet

Many people who have been affected by Alzheimer’s wonder how they can help combat this devastating disease. Volunteering to participate in research is one powerful way. Right now, at least 70,000 volunteers are needed for more than 150 active Alzheimer’s and related clinical trials and studies in the United States. All kinds of people, including healthy older adults, can join in this critical research.

Blog post - encouraging older adults to participate in research

Cartoon of four people in conversation.

Researchers tell us that recruiting older adults for research studies—especially older adults from underrepresented groups—is one of their greatest challenges.

Cognitive training shows staying power

Training to improve cognitive abilities in older people lasted to some degree 10 years after the training program was completed, according to results of a randomized clinical trial supported by the National Institutes of Health.

The findings showed training gains for aspects of cognition involved in the ability to think and learn, but researchers said memory training did not have an effect after 10 years.

New database helps clinicians, researchers find instruments to detect cognitive impairment in older adults

Evaluating the cognitive status of older patients in the primary care setting is one of the first steps in determining the cause of problems with memory, attention, and other aspects of thinking that can affect their health and well-being. With dozens of instruments available, finding the right ones to use can be a challenge. Now, clinicians and researchers have a new and simple way to find appropriate instruments—through a searchable database from the National Institute on Aging (NIA) at the National Institutes of Health.

Estrogen therapy has no long-term effect on cognition in younger postmenopausal women

A randomized clinical trial of estrogen therapy in younger postmenopausal women, aged 50–55, has found no long-term risk or benefit to cognitive function. The National Institutes of Health-supported study, reported in JAMA Internal Medicine on June 24, 2013, looked at women taking conjugated equine estrogens, the most common type of postmenopausal hormone therapy in the United States.

The earlier Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study (WHIMS) linked the same type of hormone therapy to cognitive decline and dementia in older postmenopausal women.

Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease

English

Although Alzheimer's disease currently has no cure, recent research results point toward a day when it might be possible to delay, slow down, or even prevent this devastating brain disorder. This 24-page booklet describes the latest NIA-funded research about prevention of Alzheimer's disease and age-related cognitive decline, from physical exercise and diet to social engagement and cognitive training. Also included are tips for staying healthy as you grow older.

Understanding Memory Loss

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What’s the difference between mild forgetfulness and more serious memory problems? Find out about memory problems, including Alzheimer's disease and dementia, and how to get help for serious memory loss.

Understanding Alzheimer's Disease

English

This 19-page easy-to-read booklet describes what happens when someone has Alzheimer’s disease and how it differs from normal aging. Read about when to see the doctor, possible treatments, and how patients and caregivers can get help.

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