(STUDY FINDS) --EAST LANSING, Mich. — When it comes to certain areas of the brain, bigger isn’t always better. According to a study at Michigan State University, a larger hippocampus does not always mean an older adult has strong learning or memory skills, or is immune to cognitive decline.
Research has long shown that the hippocampus shrinks as we age, and this shrinkage occurs more dramatically in people with mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s disease. Due to these observations, neuroscientists largely believed a larger hippocampus meant better memory. This is, until a 2004 study showed that the size of the hippocampus isn’t always related to memory performance in older adults. Today, thanks to this new research, scientists are beginning to understand why.
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The research team at MSU were able to prove that the size or volume of the hippocampus is only directly related to memory abilities in older people with more intact limbic white matter. Limbic white matter is the complex neural circuit system that connects the hippocampus to the rest of the brain.