As brain pathways deteriorate, so does our memory

Memory loss with aging especially short term memory – the kind that makes us forget peoples names and that makes my 92 year old mom repeat her stories to us over and over, are common to us all as we get on in life, and research such as reported here from John Hopkins University is interesting, but I am concerned that the focus of research is on cures and mitigation with drugs, is there any work here or elsewhere that is investigating the role of use of the brain, memory exercises and even possibly dietary issues in reduction of brain pathway deterioration?

Image Spacesyntax.com

The role of memory in our experience of our interaction with the city and ability of older people to access the city and use it with confidence as well as how to design way-finding and legibility  within local urban areas and buildings is still a little explored area of research. As the average age of urban populations in urban environments increases it will become more essential for designers to build places that we can negotiate without fear in order to have the vibrant streets and safe cities of the future we desire , our initial understanding of way-finding and its importance in the urban context comes from Kevin Lynch ‘s  1960’s book  The image of the city”,  later research and similar work being done in urban environments is well documented in the article from UD E-World on Wayfinding,  which also lists the work of Bill Hillier, Julienne Hanson and colleagues at The BartlettUniversity College London and Space Syntax.com as well as IDeA Centre for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access : I would like to hear form anyone who can provide information or links to practical research in this field.

This article from smartplanet.com by Christina Hernandez shows the types of medical based research that is being carried out 
“Can’t remember where you parked the car? Blame it on your aging brain pathways.

Research out of Johns Hopkins University shows why our memory falters as we grow older
Pathways to the brain’s hippocampus degrade — by as much as 20 percent — as we age. I spoke recently with Michael Yassa, an assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences and lead author on the paper in PNAS, about the work — and how it could eventually help Alzheimer’s disease patients.

How did you conduct this research?

[These pathways are] how bits of the brain communicate with each other. If you have input coming in through your eyes or ears, it gets filtered through those pathways before it gets to the part of your brain that stores memories. Early on, we tried to look for evidence of this specific pathway that leads into the hippocampus because people haven’t been able to get an anatomical way to look at it [in humans]. It’s very small and tucked among other fibers going in different directions.

We tried to find a way to use technology called diffusion imaging. We were able to use a high spatial resolution to look at things in far more detail. Once we do that, we can see evidence of this pathway if we restrict our field of view to a specific direction. We know from anatomical studies in the rodent and some primates exactly where this should be. Using a bit of fancy math, we’re able to get a signature of that pathway. We were able to quantify this — basically use a measurement scheme to see what degree to which this pathway is intact in young individuals and older individuals. We found that, as you get older, there is a clear degradation in this pathway.”

Read the full article here:

Additional Resources: 

Integrating space syntax in wayfinding analysisAnna Maria Nenci, Renato Troffa, Lumsa University, Rome, University of Rome La Sapienza 

Architectural Wayfinding Design 

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