People who experience brief or occasional memory problems may have reduced brain volumes, a new study suggests.
They may have a smaller than usual hippocampus - an area of the brain important for memory abilities - even though they do not register memory deficits on standard dementia tests, according to the research published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
However, the Dutch scientists say further investigations are needed due to the fact that occasional memory problems were found to be so common.
Study author Frank-Erik de Leeuw, neurologist and clinical epidemiologist at Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, says: "These occasional, subjective memory complaints could be the earliest sign of problems with memory and thinking skills and we were able to discover that these subjective memory complaints were linked to smaller brain volumes."
The study found that, on average, people reporting occasional memory lapses had a hippocampus with a volume of 6.7 millilitres - compared to 7.1 millilitres in people with no memory problems.
UK-based organisations the Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust recently announced that they are making up to £30 million available for new research into neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.
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