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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

About 11% of Americans over the age of 65 are diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and related dementia. For others, the changes in memory we experience as we age are normal.

The big picture: Rather than passively declining, the brain adapts and changes as humans age. Researchers want to understand how our ability to remember changes with age in hopes of improving it, and of treating and preventing Alzheimer's disease and dementia. Those diseases are "superimposed on an aging brain," says Carol Barnes, who studies healthy brain aging at the University of Arizona.

"The older ideas that brain ages passively is the wrong way to understand the changes that occur with age."
— Carol Barnes, neuroscientist, University of Arizona

How it works: Different kinds of memories are formed, stored and maintained in and between different regions of the brain, but the hippocampus is a central player.

  • As people pass 60 years of age, they often experience a decline in episodic memory, or autobiographical experiences, which some research ties to changes in the hippocampus.
  • The upside is that semantic memory — our knowledge about the world — declines later in life, says Michael Rugg, a memory researcher at the University of Texas at Dallas.

"Aging isn’t passive. The brain is always plastic and always changing," he says of shifts at the level of individual neurons but also the different cognitive strategies individuals adopt. "As we grow older, you get adaptive changes in the brain."

What's next: There are individual differences in when and how fast our cognitive abilities change as we age. Researchers want to understand them in hopes of identifying risks for cognitive decline and tailoring treatments to maximize brain function.

  • Barnes tells Axios she envisions a field of "precision aging" — applying the approaches of precision medicine to cognitive health by studying factors like genetics, environmental exposure and social interactions in a large, diverse group of people over time.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Biden calls Fox News reporter a "stupid son of a b---h" on hot mic

President Biden blasted Fox News' Peter Doocy on Monday after the reporter asked if the nation's soaring inflation is a political liability, saying, "what a stupid son of a b----h."

Driving the news: The Biden administration has faced rising inflation rates over recent months, which it has labeled as "transitory."

Hope King, author of Closer
54 mins ago - Economy & Business

Investors reset their compass

Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

The endpoints of a stimulus-fueled market are being defined.

Why it matters: Conditions that drove excess pricing in riskier assets are steadily being removed, and big swings in the market like those seen today are inevitable as investors try to adjust to the new landscape.

2 hours ago - World

Soldiers seize power in Burkina Faso as global coup surge continues

Mutinous soldiers in Burkina Faso declared on state television Monday that they had deposed the government, closed the borders and taken control of the country. President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré has reportedly been arrested.

The big picture: This would be the third successful military coup in west Africa in eight months, after juntas took power last year in Guinea and in neighboring Mali.