Where are my keys? What was I saying? Now what exactly was I looking for?

By Carrie Johnson Weimar • Published: March 20th, 2008
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

We call short lapses in memory like these “senior moments” because they seem to occur more frequently the older we get. In fact, many people fear these brain glitches are an early indicator of Alzheimer’s disease. But a team of Harvard researchers has uncovered the biological reasons for senior moments, and they say it’s a natural process that doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with Alzheimer’s.

For the study, the researchers scanned the brains of one group of patients ages fifty-five and older, and a second group of patients ages thirty-five and younger. None of the subjects had any detectable signs of Alzheimer’s disease.

In the younger adults, the regions of their brains communicated quite easily with one another. This was not the case with the older patients. The doctors found the white matter that connects different parts of the brain had started to deteriorate, which would cause short lapses in memory or cognitive ability.

The change affected different people in different ways, and not all of the older subjects reported having difficulties.

Scientists say the findings are significant because it will help them differentiate between normal brain aging and the early signs of Alzheimer’s.

So, is there any way to slow the aging process and keep the brain healthy? Doctors say yes. They say eating well, exercising and engaging in mental activities, such as puzzles or word games, can help the brain age gracefully.