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Study uncovers possible genetic path to staving off cognitive decline

February 11, 2013

Staying mentally sharp is an important part of a healthy lifestyle for seniors, and researchers believe they have made a considerable breakthrough when it comes to preventing age-related cognitive decline. Scientists from the German Cancer Research Center say shutting off a particular molecule, known as Dickkopf-1, may not only stave off cognitive issues but could also spur the creation of new brain cells.

The findings come from analysis of older mice whose production of Dickkopf-1 had been blocked. Researchers then had them perform tasks designed to measure spatial memory, and the team found that their performances were similar to those of younger mice. Not only that, but the results also showed that mice whose production was blocked were less likely to develop symptoms of depression.

"The design of inhibitors that reach the brain might enable the prevention of cognitive decline in the aging population and depression in the general population," said senior author Dr. Ana Martin-Villalba.

Though it might be a while until these findings can be implemented, the results are encouraging. Until then, however, there are certain steps seniors can take to reduce their risk of cognitive decline, whether it is through exercise or continuing education, both of which offer benefits.