We know that the hippocampus is a key part of the brain, responsible for processing short-term memory of everyday facts and names and storing them in long-term memory. In a “healthy” brain the hippocampus works well. But when the hippocampus begins to fail, “senior moments” start to occur.
Both of the following neuroscience studies suggest that hyperactivity in the hippocampus raises the risk for AD and mild cognitive impairment, but for different causes.
Researchers at Tel Aviv University have linked this hyperactivity to an insulin-like growth factor called IGF-1R, “an important contributor” to the abnormality, Dr. Slutsky reported. She suggested that an inhibitor of IGF-1R, already being developed for cancer, be tested for reducing hyperactivity in the hippocampus to treat patients in early stages of AD.
A related study, this time from researchers at University of Southern California, focused on norepinephrine, believed to protect neurons from inflammation and excessive stimulation by other neurotransmitters that accelerate AD. In this case, unlike IGF-1R, norepinephrine is good for the brain, increasing activity by raising levels of attention, memory, and cognition.
And we can control our level of norepinephrine! Our mentally challenging activities stimulate the release of norepinephrine from the locus coeruleus in the brainstem. We are capable of building cognitive reserve or effective brain performance throughout our lives, even in later life and “despite approaching pathology,” according to Mather, the author.