Stress hormone linked to short-term memory loss as we age

June 17, 2014
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Science Daily/University of Iowa
A new study reports a potential link between stress hormones and short-term memory loss in older adults. The study reveals that having high levels of cortisol—a natural hormone in our body whose levels surge when we are stressed—can lead to memory lapses as we age.

"Stress hormones are one mechanism that we believe leads to weathering of the brain," Jason Radley, assistant professor in psychology at the UI and corresponding author on the paper. Like a rock on the shoreline, after years and years it will eventually break down and disappear.

While previous studies have shown cortisol to produce similar effects in other regions of the aging brain, this was the first study to examine its impact on the prefrontal cortex.

And although preliminary, the findings raise the possibility that short-memory decline in aging adults may be slowed or prevented by treatments that decrease levels of cortisol in susceptible individuals, says Radley. That could mean treating people who have naturally high levels of cortisol -- such as those who are depressed -- or those who experience repeated, long-term stress due to traumatic life events like the death of a loved one.
Science Daily/SOURCE : http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140617210118.htm

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