Journal of Undergraduate Research


cognitive functions, hippocampus, memory, neurogenesis


Family, Home, and Social Sciences




It is widely known that as we age, our cognitive functions start to decrease, especially when it comes to memory. Memory in the human brain has major processes in the medial temporal lobe, specifically the hippocampus. It is widely accepted that in older adults, the areas in the medial temporal lobe start to atrophy and this decrease in brain tissue volume is what leads to difficulty in memory (Van Petten, 2004). Further, as we age the rate of new neuron growth (termed neurogenesis) in the dentate gyrus region of the hippocampus slows down (Small, 2001). Neurogenesis in the dentate gyrus has been linked to pattern separation, which is the ability to form distinct memory representations for overlapping stimuli. However, in a preliminary study, Dr. Kirwan found that the volume of the dentate gyrus in the hippocampus in older adults has no correlation to their performance on a memory task with high pattern separation demands. Because of this, we wanted to better understand what processes are actually happening in the brain that causes memory deficiencies in older adults. Our hypothesis was that a decrease in memory is due to a breakdown of neuronal connectivity in the brain.

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