The aging brain undergoes a range of changes varying from subtle structural and physiological changes causing only minor functional decline under healthy normal aging conditions, to severe cognitive or neurological impairment associated with extensive loss of neurons and circuits due to age-associated neurodegenerative disease conditions. Understanding how biological aging processes affect the brain and how they contribute to the onset and progress of age-associated neurodegenerative diseases is a core research goal in contemporary neuroscience. This review focuses on the idea that changes in intrinsic neuronal electrical excitability associated with (per)oxidation of membrane lipids and activation of phospholipase A2 (PLA2) enzymes are an important mechanism of learning and memory failure under normal aging conditions. Specifically, in the context of this special issue on the biology of cognitive aging we portray the opportunities offered by the identifiable neurons and behaviorally characterized neural circuits of the freshwater snail Lymnaea stagnalis in neuronal aging research and recapitulate recent insights indicating a key role of lipid peroxidation-induced PLA2 as instruments of aging, oxidative stress and inflammation in age-associated neuronal and memory impairment in this model system. The findings are discussed in view of accumulating evidence suggesting involvement of analogous mechanisms in the etiology of age-associated dysfunction and disease of the human and mammalian brain.
Keywords: Lymnaea stagnalis; age-associated memory impairment (AMI); aging; lipid peroxidation; neuronal excitability; neuronal plasticity; phospholipases A2.