Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Early life stress can lead to memory loss and cognitive decline in middle age


UCI study shows link between infant stress and later deficits in brain-cell communication for learning and memory function
Psychological stress during infancy has been found to cause early impaired memory and a decline in related cognitive abilities, according to a UC Irvine School of Medicine study. The study suggests that the emotional stress associated with parental loss, abuse or neglect may contribute to the type of memory loss during middle-age years that is normally seen in the elderly.

The study, conducted in rats, is believed to be the first to show that early life emotional stress initiates a slow deterioration of brain-cell communication in adulthood. These cell-signaling deficits occur in the hippocampus, a brain region involved in learning, storage and recall of learned memories. Study results appear in the Oct. 12 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.

"The loss of cognitive function later in life is probably a result of both genetic and environmental factors," said study leader Dr. Tallie Z. Baram, the Danette Shepard Chair in Neurological Sciences. "While it is not yet possible to change a person’s genetic background, it may be feasible to block the environmental effects, particularly of early life stress, on learning and memory later in life. These studies point to the development of new, more effective ways to prevent cognitive impairment later in life."

In their study, Baram, post-graduate researcher Kristen Brunson and colleagues found that limiting the nesting material in cages where neonatal rats lived with their mothers led to emotional stress for both mothers and pups. All evidence of this stress disappeared by the time the pups reached adulthood.

However, starting in middle age, these "graduates" of early life stress began to exhibit deficits in their ability to remember the location of objects they had seen before, as well as to recognize objects that they had encountered on the previous day. Strikingly, these difficulties worsened as the rats grew older, much more rapidly than in rats that were raised for their first week of life under typical nurturing environment.

The researchers teamed up with Gary Lynch, a UCI professor of psychiatry and human behavior and a world leader in the study of the mechanisms of learning and memory, to understand the effects early life stress had on the brain-cell activity in the rats. The normal increase in brain communication through synapses, considered to be the cellular basis for learning and memory, was found to be faulty in the middle-aged rats exposed to early life stress.

In testing these cellular abnormalities, the researchers recorded the electrical activity of brain cells, which appeared normal in young adult rats exposed to early life stress, but became very disturbed as they reached middle age. These changes in brain-cell activity were consistent with the rats’ behavioral changes.

More than 50 percent of the world’s children are raised under stressful conditions, as revealed by UNESCO last year. While it has been suspected that early life stress can lead to later cognitive impairment, it is not yet possible to affirm this suspicion in human studies, because children’s genetic background or other confounders make these analyses too complex.

The current study allows investigators to show that the early stress itself is responsible for the cognitive decline. In addition, now that concrete deficits in brain-cell communication have been found, the new understanding of the cellular basis for how this occurs will permit the researchers to find the specific molecules involved and to design medicines to prevent the deficits.

Tom Vasich | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Diagnoses: When Are Several Opinions Better Than One?
19.07.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

nachricht High in calories and low in nutrients when adolescents share pictures of food online
07.04.2016 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Innovative technique for shaping light could solve bandwidth crunch

20.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

Finding the lightest superdeformed triaxial atomic nucleus

20.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

NASA's MAVEN mission observes ups and downs of water escape from Mars

20.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

More VideoLinks >>>