Effects of Aging on Executive Functioning and Mesocorticolimbic Dopamine Markers in Male Fischer 344 × Brown Norway Rats
This week we profile a recent publication in Neurobiology of Aging from the laboratory
of Dr. Stan Floresco (pictured) at the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health.
Can you provide a brief overview of your lab’s current research focus?
The primary focus of my lab is to understand how different brain circuits interconnected with the frontal lobes regulate complex forms of cognition that facilitate processes such as behavioral flexibility and cost/benefit decision making. In particular, we are interested in clarifying how dysfunction in these circuits may contribute to deficits in cognition associated with certain psychiatric illnesses such as schizophrenia and depression, as well as aging.
What is the significance of the findings in this publication?
It has been well-established that aging in both humans and animals is associated with impairments in learning and memory. However, it is less clear how aging might affect integration of different memories to guide more complex forms of cognition (sometimes referred to as “executive functions”). In this study, we used aged rats to model these deficits, and found that aging was associated with impairments in different executive functions that require flexible use of different types of memories and are mediated by the frontal lobes of the brain. Furthermore, these cognitive impairments were associated with deficiencies in the neurochemical dopamine, which has been shown to be crucial for facilitating different forms of cognition that are governed by the frontal lobes.
What are the next steps for this research?
Our results suggest that deficits in executive functioning associated with aging may be linked to deficiencies in the neurotransmitter dopamine. As a next step, we are interested in seeing if certain drugs that can enhance dopamine activity in the brain may be useful in treating age-related deficits in cognition.
This research was funded by:
Our work was supported by grants from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.