PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Lots of money is being spent trying to find the cause of Alzheimers and other forms of dementia. It has long been my thought that there is not one cause, but many factors.

Researchers at Yale are looking at a very specific possibility. They have found that older monkeys lack the normal persistent firing of nerves in the prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain that is critical to working memory.

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But it gets very interesting. As reported in the journal Nature, when scientists create an ideal environment for older monkey brains by changing the neurochemical environment these reduced firing levels can be increased. Why is this important?

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Working memory is critical to everyday tasks, including planning ahead and learning. Early on in normal aging, prefrontal cortex function declines, leading to cognitive deficits such as forgetfulness and distractibility.

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Reported By Dr. Brian McDonough, KYW Newsradio Medical Editor