Long term memory refers to those memories that a person can recall for years. This type of memory is quite different from short term memory. Unfortunately, aging has an effect on long term memory. Long term memories begin to fade as a person ages. This is not a cause for concern, as it is a natural process in aging. However, some seniors may show more forgetfulness compared to others.
A decline in memory usually begins when a person reaches his/her 20s and continues thereafter. Problems related to memory tend to worsen when a person reaches his/her 50s. Generally, the brain does not change its structure or produce new nerve cells. However, it is the connections between the nerve cells that the brain changes or creates. These connections are known as synapses and help the nerve cells to communicate with one another. However, as a person ages, new synapses are not created and the old ones begin to deteriorate. This is the reason why an older person finds it difficult to dredge his/her memory.
According to most researchers, aging results in loss of important brain cells in the frontotemporal region of the brain which, in turn, reduces the amount of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter, produced. This neurotransmitter is extremely vital for recalling memories.
Furthermore, there are parts of the brain that are involved in long term memories. This is the hippocampus. This region of the brain tends to loss its nerve cells as a person ages. Researchers claim that the hippocampus loses 5 percent of nerve cells every ten years and by the time a person reaches his/her 80s, they would have lost 20 percent of the nerve cells from the hippocampus. The hippocampus, located in the temporal lobe of the brain, is responsible for converting short term memories to long term. Hence, when the hippocampus deteriorates with age, it affects long term memory. In addition, the brain also tends to shrink as a person ages. This too has an effect on long term memory as the brain is no longer as efficient as it was when the person was younger.
However, there are studies that claim that long term memory problems seen in older adults can be reduced if they are given mental stimulation and begin doing physical exercise. Laboratory studies show that shrinkage of brain can be averted if the brain is stimulated. This stimulation occurs when a person does crossword puzzles or plays mental stimulation games, such as chess or scrabble. This can avert loss of long term memory brought on by normal aging.
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