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Prozac prevents cognitive decline during normal aging process, study shows

Published on 21/08/18 at 09:31am
Image Credit: ZEISS Microscopy

A study conducted by MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory has reinforced the notion that loss in the capacity for plasticity rather than loss of cells may be the root cause of cognitive decline throughout the normal aging process.

However scientists who published their results in the Journal of Neuroscience were able to restore the lost plasticity using the antidepressant medication fluoxetine commonly sold under the brand name Prozac, in mice.

“Despite common belief, loss of neurons due to cell death is quite limited during normal aging and unlikely to account for age-related functional impairments,” wrote the scientists, including lead author Ronen Eavri and corresponding author Elly Nedivi, a Professor of biology and brain and cognitive sciences. “Rather it seems that structural alterations in neuronal morphology and synaptic connections are features most consistently correlated with brain age, and may be considered as the potential physical basis for the age-related decline.”

The team tracked changes in the brains of mice as they found that plasticity peaks and then progressively declines when mice are aged around 6 months old (mice are mature at 3 months old). However those mice that were given fluoxetine starting at the age of 3 months old experienced increased growth of new cells and increased capacity for plasticity.

“Here we show that fluoxetine can also ameliorate the age-related decline in structural and functional plasticity of visual cortex neurons,” the researchers wrote. “Our finding that fluoxetine treatment in aging mice can attenuate the concurrent age–related declines in interneuron structural and visual cortex functional plasticity suggests it could provide an important therapeutic approach towards mitigation of sensory and cognitive deficits associated with aging, provided it is initiated before severe network deterioration,”

Louis Goss

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