Finding yourself a little more forgetful these days? Don't panic—it comes with normal aging, and doesn't necessarily point to Alzheimer's. Scientists investigated the difference between the two processes in the hippocampus, the part of the brain associated with memory. While Alzheimer's is known to be associated with a mess of accumulating plaques and proteins, "there’s been a lot of uncertainty about what is actually going wrong" in normal memory loss, a researcher tells Science.
Examining postmortem brain tissue from healthy people ages 33 to 86, the scientists found that the expression of a certain gene, tied to a protein called RbAp48, declined some 50% over the years. Mice bred to have a deficit of RbAp48 had memory trouble from a young age, but elderly mice treated with the protein could regain their memory abilities. "Our study provides compelling evidence that age-related memory loss is a syndrome in its own right, apart from Alzheimer's," a co-author of the study, which could point to future memory treatments, tells WebMD. (Read more protein stories.)