Autophagy is traditionally known to be a stress response and a quality control mechanism for protecting cells from injury and disease. In addition to its housekeeping functions, autophagy also has specialized functions including regulation of synaptic activity and neurotransmission. Decreased autophagy is commonly associated with aging; however, the functional importance of autophagy in regulating cognitive function and its decline during aging were previously not known. A recent study showed that the induction of hippocampal autophagy improves cognition by enhancing memory formation and reverses memory decline during aging. Here, we discuss the findings of that study and explore the scope of the physiological process of autophagy in the development of treatments for age-related cognitive decline and neurodegenerative diseases.
- synaptic plasticity