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MSU Study: Bigger may not be better

Posted at 5:53 PM, Jan 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-16 17:53:30-05

LANSING, Mich. — When it comes to certain parts of the brain, bigger in size doesn't necessarily mean you'll have a better memory, according to a study led by Michigan State University.

The university said a larger hippocampus, a curved, seahorse-shaped structure located deep in the bran, does not always accurately predict learning and memory abilities in adults who are older.

The university said it's normal for the hippocampus to shrink with aging, but it is much more noticeable in people who have mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer's disease.

MSU said a 2004 study showed that a bigger hippocampus doesn't always mean a better memory for older adults.

The latest study from MSU shows that the brain's white matter might actually be the key.

Their research found that the more intact the white matter is, the more circuit connections a person had throughout their brain, which equals a better memory.

“Our findings highlight the need to measure not just the size of the hippocampus but also how well it’s connected to the rest of the brain when we look for physical markers of memory decline in older adults,” said Andrew Bender, lead author on the study and assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics, and neurology and ophthalmology at MSU’s College of Human Medicine.

MSU said the study also has "potential implications for earlier diagnosis of aging-related memory disorders such as Alzheimer's disease."

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