Health changes associated with ageing are the most significant contributors to age-related cognitive decline. Stress, depression and personality disorders are also among the most common factors greatly facilitating appearance of cognitive impairment from mild to the most severe forms, as in the case of Alzheimer’s disease. Treatment of cognitive impairments is found to be extremely complicated with very limited efficacy. Hence, the most effective treatment of cognitive impairment may be provided by eradicating the facilitating factors. It is therefore of crucial importance to understand which molecular mechanisms underlying the stress, depression or personality disorders which are involved in development of ageing-related cognitive impairments.
In our lab, we developed animals with strong dominant and submissive behavior that exhibit resilience or sensitivity to stress, respectively. We recently demonstrated that the inherited sensitivity to stress of Submissive mice predicts the early appearance of age-dependent cognitive alteration, and currently aim to characterize the molecular mechanisms of stress-induced changes in learning ability, and to identify genes whose influence upon cognition is stimulated by the stress hormone, corticosterone. Identification of target genes causing stress- and age- dependent cognitive impairment will enable future studies with human volunteers, leading to the development of clinical tools to aid psychiatrists in the early treatment and prevention of stress- and age-induced cognitive decline.