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The Healthy Aging Program

Aging and Memory


Principal Investigator: Kathy Magnusson, D.V.M, Ph.D.

We’ve been characterizing changes in the expression of a receptor that is very important for the formation of memories, the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor. This receptor uses glutamate as a transmitter. The NMDA receptor shows greater declines in binding of glutamate with increased age than any of the other glutamate receptors. We’ve found relationships between NMDA receptor binding and expressions of two NMDA receptor subunits, GluN2B (epsilon2, NR2B) and GluN2A (epsilon1, NR2A), during aging. We've also shown associations between age-related changes in NMDA-binding densities and subunit expressions and declines in both working and reference memory ability.

We are continuing to characterize the changes that occur in the NMDA receptor with increasing age. We are currently examining whether increasing the expression of the GluN2B subunit or some of the splice variants of the GluN1 subunit is beneficial to memory in aged animals, how aging affects where the NMDA receptors are located within the neurons, and whether inflammation plays a role in the effects of aging on NMDA receptors. We are also trying to determine exactly what role NMDA receptors in the prefrontal cortex play in different forms of memory. Ultimately, we want to discover the mechanisms underlying the age-related changes in the NMDA receptor.

The lab’s main goal is to find interventions into aging that will help to maintain the quality of life into old age. We’re also interested in helping to better understand the function of the NMDA receptor in different brain regions.