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Does The Brain Shrink With Age

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Reversibility Of Cerebral Atrophy

How To Prevent Brain Shrinkage With Age | How Much Does Our Brain Shrink by Age 70 | Neal Thakkar

While most cerebral atrophy is said to be irreversible, recent studies that show this is not always the case. A child who was treated with ACTH originally showed atrophy, but four months after treatment the brain was seemingly normal again.

Chronic alcoholism is known to be associated with cerebral atrophy in addition to motor dysfunction and impairment in higher brain function. Because some of the behavioral deficits have shown improvement after abstinence from alcohol, one study investigated whether cerebral atrophy could be reversed. Researchers took CT scans of the 8 study participants in order to measure cortical volume over time. Although decrease in atrophy does not equate to clinical improvement, the CT scans of 50% of the participants showed partial improvement, indicating that cerebral atrophy could be a reversible process.

What Happens To The Brain In Alzheimer’s Disease

The healthy human brain contains tens of billions of neuronsspecialized cells that process and transmit information via electrical and chemical signals. They send messages between different parts of the brain, and from the brain to the muscles and organs of the body. Alzheimers disease disrupts this communication among neurons, resulting in loss of function and cell death.

Brain Deformations In Healthy Brain Aging And Alzheimers Disease

FIGURE 5. Representative axial and coronal views of the displacement magnitude and structural images at six time points during the aging process. We show healthy aging and Alzheimers disease-related aging in the top and bottom rows, respectively. Brain deformation is higher in Alzheimers disease than healthy aging, and is largest around the ventricles. Moreover, we observe significant enlargement of the ventricular horns in the vicinity of the hippocampus, see coronal view. The forth time point clearly shows a distinct separation of the displacement trajectories.

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Eating A Healthful Diet

A key component of brain health is diet. In 2018, researchers linked omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the blood with healthy brain aging.

Another study has also determined that consuming foods included in the Mediterranean or MIND diet is associated with a lower risk of memory difficulties in older adults.

Research by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign discovered that middle-aged people with higher levels of lutein which is a nutrient present in green leafy vegetables, such as kale and spinach, as well as eggs and avocados had similar neural responses to younger individuals than those of people of the same age.

As people get older, they experience typical decline. However, research has shown that this process can start earlier than expected. You can even start to see some differences in the 30s, says first study author Anne Walk, a postdoctoral scholar.

We want to understand how diet impacts cognition throughout the life span, she adds. If lutein can protect against decline, we should encourage people to consume lutein-rich foods at a point in their lives when it has maximum benefit.

The number of adults in the United States over the age of 65 is set to more than double in the next 40 years, rising from 40.2 million in 2010 to 88.5 million by 2050.

Due to this aging population, it will become increasingly important to understand the cognitive changes that go hand in hand with aging.

Chapter : What Happens Inside Peoples Brains When Theyre Depressed

Dr Pete

There have been studies showing a change in brain activity when mood shifts, but there is now also research showing a change in brain shape that appears to be associated with severe mood disorders. The brain shrinks, or rather, certain parts of it do. One of those parts is called the hippocampus. This part is associated with making and being able to recall memories. If mood symptoms are severe or go on very long, the hippocampus shrinks. This chapter shows you the evidence that this shrinkage really occurs. The same process appears also to be occurring in frontal lobes as well, though not elsewhere in the brain. This brain shrinkage, called atrophy, has long been associated with Alzheimers dementia; but lately it has also been associated with obesity, and even with back pain, and very clearly with depression. The good news is that treatments can reverse this shrinkage, at least to a significant extent.

Here is the problem, described in the next 4 chapters, and the hoped-for results of treatment, detailed in Chapter 11:
Cellular Connections During Mood Disorders Results of Effective Treatments

Link to Chapter 7: Why do some parts of the brain atrophy during major depression?

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Prevention And Prognosis Of Cerebral Atrophy

Cerebral atrophy is not usually preventable, however, there are some things you can do to reduce your risk. These include:

  • Regular exercise: This can be as simple as taking frequent walks every day. By following a regular workout regimen, you can minimize the possibility of cerebral atrophy.
  • Minimizing vitamin deficiencies: Ensuring that you eat a balanced and healthy diet, particularly eating foods rich in vitamins, such as B12, will give you the best chance of preventing cerebral atrophy.
  • Drinking enough water: Dehydration can lead to the increase of stress hormones and acute brain damage. Therefore, it is recommended to drink plenty of water every day to stay hydrated.
  • Consuming fruits and vegetables: It is recommended to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables every day. These may include blackberries, blueberries, cranberries, cherries, strawberries, spinach, raspberries, plums, broccoli, beets, oranges, and red bell peppers. They are not only delicious to eat but are packed with vitamins and minerals as well as being rich in antioxidants.

The level of brain functioning is directly related to the area of the brain affected by cerebral atrophy. In the majority of cases of focal atrophy, fatal outcomes are not particularly common but can still cause impairment of normal functioning. Cerebral atrophy outcomes will generally vary from person to person, with advanced stages often leading to complete dementia.


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Normal Brain Changes With Age

An aging brainone not affected by dementiaexperiences changes. Certain parts of the brain shrink a little although there is not a significant loss of nerve calls, as occurs in Alzheimers disease. Shrinkage typically is found in the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus, areas of the brain important to learning, memory, planning, and other complex mental activities. There are also normal changes in neurotransmitters, which affect communication between nerve cells.

In certain brain regions, white matter is degraded or lost. This affects our brains ability to send and receive nerve impulses and to interact with neurons in other parts of the brain. When axons lose some of their ability to transmit a nerve signal efficiently, brain function is affected.

An illustration of a healthy neuron showing the nucleus, cell body, dendrites, and axons. Source: Used with permission.

Because white matter connects the different regions of the brain, even a little loss or breakdown of myelin can affect cognition. You can see in the following images the massive amount of white matter within the human brain.

White matter fiber architecture of the brain. Measured from diffusion spectral imaging . The fibers are color-coded by direction: red = left-right, green = anterior-posterior, blue = through brain stem. Source:

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Saving Monuments In Iraq

While making monuments more accessible was always on CyArk’s agenda, it was not its primary focus. First and foremost, the company had been founded to save artifacts from accidental or deliberate destruction. Case-in-point: a 6.8-magnitude earthquake destroyed a number of ancient temples in Myanmar in 2016. These temples, erected by the Pagan Kingdom, would have been lost were it not for the CyArk employees that managed to scan key structures before the earthquake hit.

Saving monuments from the wrath of Mother Nature is one thing, but protecting them from religious or ideologically motivated iconoclasm is another. For many years, scanning artifacts located in war-torn areas like Iraq or Syria was not only difficult but dangerous. Despite the risks involved, French filmmaker Ivan Erhel traveled to the Middle East the place where many of our earliest known civilizations originated to scan as many remnants of Mesopotamian culture as possible.

Erhel can trace his resolve back to 2015. That year, the Islamic State was at the height of its power, occupying large portions of Iraq. During this time, ISIS members destroyed a number of museums, statues, and other artifacts. “In Nimrud, most of the bas relief was totally destroyed,” Erhel said. “In Babylon, the Muuu have lost their colors. Hattra has been occupied by ISIS for several years, and many of the sculptures had their faces erased with hammer or gunshots.”

What Happens To The Brain As We Age

Scientists know that our brains shrink with aging, but does less gray matter really matter

Brain aging is inevitable to some extent, but it is not uniform; it affects everyone, or every brain, differently.

Slowing down brain aging or stopping it altogether would be the ultimate elixir to achieve eternal youth. Is brain aging a slippery slope that we need to accept? Or are there steps that we can take to reduce the rate of decline?

At around 3 pounds in weight, the human brain is a staggering feat of engineering, with around 100 billion neurons interconnected via trillions of synapses.

Throughout a lifetime, the brain changes more than any other part of the body. From the moment the brain begins to develop in the third week of gestation to old age, its complex structures and functions are changing, networks and pathways connecting and severing.

During the first few years of life, the brain forms more than 1 million new neural connections every second. The size of the brain increases fourfold in the preschool period, and by age 6, it reaches around 90% of its adult volume.

The frontal lobes are the area of the brain responsible for executive functions, such as planning, working memory, and impulse control. These are among the last areas of the brain to mature, and they may not develop fully until around

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Key Biological Processes In The Brain

Most neurons have three basic parts: a cell body, multiple dendrites, and an axon.

  • The cell body contains the nucleus, which houses the genetic blueprint that directs and regulates the cells activities.
  • Dendrites are branch-like structures that extend from the cell body and collect information from other neurons.
  • The axon is a cable-like structure at the end of the cell body opposite the dendrites and transmits messages to other neurons.

The function and survival of neurons depend on several key biological processes:

Neurons are a major player in the central nervous system, but other cell types are also key to healthy brain function. In fact, glial cells are by far the most numerous cells in the brain, outnumbering neurons by about 10 to 1. These cells, which come in various formssuch as microglia, astrocytes, and oligodendrocytessurround and support the function and healthy of neurons. For example, microglia protect neurons from physical and chemical damage and are responsible for clearing foreign substances and cellular debris from the brain. To carry out these functions, glial cells often collaborate with blood vessels in the brain. Together, glial and blood vessel cells regulate the delicate balance within the brain to ensure that it functions at its best.

Multiphysics Model Of Cerebral Atrophy

Our goal is to identify differences in spatiotemporal atrophy patterns characteristic for healthy and AD-related brain aging. Therefore, we formulate a multiphysics approach that couples mechanics-driven volume loss and the biology-driven spreading of toxic proteins . In our constitutive model, we pose that healthy aging is linked to a steady volume loss in gray and white matter tissues, while AD accelerates atrophy proportional to the local toxic protein level . We solve our continuum problem on an anatomically accurate finite element brain model and quantify hallmark features of cerebral atrophy including volume loss, cortical thinning, ventricular enlargement, and sulcal widening.

2.1.1 Continuum Model for Protein Spread

AD is characterized by the accumulation and spreading of misfolded, neurotoxic proteins . Post-mortem studies on AD patients have shown that protein spread follows a characteristic spatial pattern that is characterized by consistent onset locations and spreading pathways . Mathematically, these progression patterns are well approximated by a reaction-diffusion model known as the Fisher-Kolmogorov equation . We define the concentration of misfolded protein, c, that spreads via linear diffusion.

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How Does The Virus Get To Our Brains

Theres evidence connecting respiratory viruses, including influenza, with brain dysfunction. In records of the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, reports abound of dementia, cognitive decline, and difficulties with movement and sleep.

Evidence from the SARS outbreak in 2002 and the MERS outbreak in 2012 suggest these infections caused roughly 15-20% of recovered people to experience depression, anxiety, memory difficulties and fatigue.

Theres no conclusive evidence the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID, can penetrate the blood brain barrier, which usually protects the brain from large and dangerous blood-borne molecules entering from the bloodstream.

But theres data suggesting it may hitchhike into the brain by way of nerves that connect our noses to our brains.

Researchers suspect this because in many infected adults, the genetic material of the virus was found in the part of the nose that initiates the process of smell coinciding with the loss of smell experienced by people with COVID.

Older Adults Who Walk Dance Swim Or Garden Tend To Have Less Brain Shrinkage

Reversing age

Walking, dancing, swimming, or gardening on a regular basis may offset brain shrinkage in older adults, according to a soon-to-be-published preliminary study from Columbia University.

The cohort for this study included 1,557 people with an average age of 75. This research is scheduled to be presented at the American Academy of Neurology‘s 72nd Annual Meeting in Toronto next month.

As we age, our brains tend to shrink. After age 40, previous research has shown that human brain weight typically decreases by about 5 percent each decade. After age 70, brain shrinkage typically occurs at an even faster rate .

This recent “brain shrinkage” study used MRI neuroimaging scans to measure the brain volume of older people with varying levels of weekly physical activity. The scans revealed that less active older adults tend to have smaller brain volumes. Conversely, the most active participants in the study tended to have bigger brain volumes and showed less brain shrinkage.

“Older people who regularly walk, garden, swim, or dance have bigger brains than their inactive peers,” according to a recent press release from the AAN about this research.

In addition to walking, dancing, swimming, or gardening, the recent findings from Columbia suggest that any type of physical activity may significantly slow brain-volume loss by the time someone is in his or her mid-seventies.

Here are the three groups:

  • Those who were inactive
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    The Value Of Exercise

    Research has identified numerous ways to keep your mind healthy as you get older.

    If youre a smoker, quitting the habit is the No. 1 thing you can do, says Elizabeth Zelinski, a psychologist at the Leonard Davis School of Gerontology at the University of Southern California. When it comes to cognitive decline, Smoking is probably the number one risk factor it affects your nervous system and vascular system, she says, and detriments to either of those systems can accelerate memory problems.

    Other risks for age-related cognitive decline include high blood pressure and diabetes, obesity and being sedentary, all of which affect your vascular system.

    One of the most powerful ways to keep your mind healthy is with exercise.

    Physical activity has been shown to promote neurogenesis the formation of new neurons and so its not surprising that exercise would help keep your mind sharp. In 2012, Zelinski published a meta analysis on methods to improve cognition in older adults.

    What we found is that exercise was just as effective as doing any kind of cognitive training like brain games, she says. Moderate exercise, even just walking, seems to be fine, Zelinski says.

    Aging Changes In The Heart And Blood Vessels

    Some changes in the heart and blood vessels normally occur with age. However, many other changes that are common with aging are due to or worsened by modifiable factors. If not treated, these can lead to heart disease.


    The heart has two sides. The right side pumps blood to the lungs to receive oxygen and get rid of carbon dioxide. The left side pumps oxygen-rich blood to the body.

    Blood flows out of the heart, first through the aorta, then through arteries, which branch out and get smaller and smaller as they go into the tissues. In the tissues, they become tiny capillaries.

    Capillaries are where the blood gives up oxygen and nutrients to the tissues, and receives carbon dioxide and wastes back from the tissues. Then, the vessels begin to collect together into larger and larger veins, which return blood to the heart.



    Blood vessels:


    • The blood itself changes slightly with age. Normal aging causes a reduction in total body water. As part of this, there is less fluid in the bloodstream, so blood volume decreases.
    • The speed with which red blood cells are produced in response to stress or illness is reduced. This creates a slower response to blood loss and anemia.
    • Most of the white blood cells stay at the same levels, although certain white blood cells important to immunity decrease in their number and ability to fight off bacteria. This reduces the ability to resist infection.


    • Certain medicines
    • Injuries

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