Neural protein synthesis during aging: Effects on plasticity and memory

Lesley A. Schimanski, Carol A. Barnes

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


During aging,many experience a decline in cognitive function that includes memory loss. The encoding of long-term memories depends on new protein synthesis, and this is also reduced during aging. Thus, it is possible that changes in the regulation of protein synthesis contribute to the memory impairments observed in older animals. Several lines of evidence support this hypothesis. For instance, protein synthesis is required for a longer period following learning to establish long-term memory in aged rodents. Also, under some conditions, synaptic activity or pharmacological activation can induce de novo protein synthesis and lasting changes in synaptic transmission in aged, but not young, rodents; the opposite results can be observed in other conditions. These changes in plasticity likely play a role in manifesting the altered place field properties observed in awake and behaving aged rats. The collective evidence suggests a link between memory loss and the regulation of protein synthesis in senescence. In fact, pharmaceuticals that target the signaling pathways required for induction of protein synthesis have improved memory, synaptic plasticity, and place cell properties in aged animals. We suggest that a better understanding of the mechanisms that lead to different protein expression patterns in the neural circuits that change as a function of age will enable the development of more effective therapeutic treatments for memory loss.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberArticle 26
JournalFrontiers in Aging Neuroscience
Issue numberAUG
StatePublished - 2010


  • Aging
  • Hippocampus
  • Memory
  • Place cells
  • Plasticity
  • Protein synthesis
  • Transcription
  • Translation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aging
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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