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Computational modeling and physiological studies of neural form and function in the aging brain

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What leads to memory loss?

Loss of memory brought on by ageing is the result of various dysfunctions in certain regions of the brain. Two of these areas are the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex.

Health

Knowledge is still at a rather rudimentary level with regard to the anatomical and biophysical properties, or underlying molecular processes, which support and promote the formation of memory. This is also true in relation to the effects of ageing on neural learning and ability to retain information. The 'Computational modeling and physiological studies of neural form and function in the aging brain' (Anamnisis) project focused on ageing-induced changes in cellular properties and how these affect the ability of hippocampal and neocortical cells to process information. To do this, the EU-funded project combined electrophysiological and modelling approaches. Software was developed for analyses of planned electrophysiological recordings aimed at characterising the properties of young and aged pyramidal neurons. Data retrieved from these experiments enabled team members to refine young and aged pyramidal neuron models. Pyramidal neurons are pyramidal-shaped bodies of cells commonly found in forebrain structures; they are thought to play an important role in advanced cognitive functions. Success in this area facilitated investigation of the role of morphological alterations in specific properties of certain aged pyramidal neurons. Anamnisis researchers focused on gathering anatomical and biophysical information for use in simulation experiments so as to study how ageing affects the excitability and integrative properties of hippocampal and neocortical neurons. Projects results aimed to contribute knowledge on the key mechanisms influencing integration properties of dendrites. Advances in this area have the potential to drive new medical interventions that can lessen the effects of memory loss in the elderly.

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