In a small study, researchers at the University of California, Irvine, found that high-resolution functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) of the brain may provide important information about underlying causes of age-related memory problems.
The researchers asked 20 young adults between ages 18 and 31 and 20 cognitively healthy older adults between 64 and 89 to perform two tasks – an object memory task and a location memory task – while undergoing a fMRI scan. In the first task, study participants were shown pictures of everyday objects and asked to distinguish them from new pictures. In the second, they were asked to determine whether the location of the objects had been changed in the pictures.
The fMRI, which provides images of blood flow, allowed the researchers to determine which areas of the brain were active when the subjects were performing each task and to detect deficits. The researchers observed age-related changes in some areas of the brain, but not in others. Results of the study were published in Neuron. Combined with additional research, the results may help determine whether fMRI scans could one day be used to diagnose memory loss earlier.