Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Healthy older brains not significantly smaller than younger brains, new imaging study shows

10.09.2009
Previous samples might have unknowingly included people with early brain disease

The belief that healthy older brains are substantially smaller than younger brains may stem from studies that did not screen out people whose undetected, slowly developing brain disease was killing off cells in key areas, according to new research. As a result, previous findings may have overestimated atrophy and underestimated normal size for the older brain.

The new study tested participants in Holland's long-term Maastricht Aging Study who were free of neurological problems such as dementia, Parkinson's disease or stroke. Once participants were deemed otherwise healthy, they took neuropsychological tests, including a screening test for dementia, at baseline and every three years afterward for nine years.

According to the report in the September Neuropsychology, published by the American Psychological Association, participants were also given MRI scans at Year 3 to measure seven different parts of the brain, including the memory-laden hippocampus, the areas around it, and the frontal and cingulate areas of the cognitively critical cortex.

After examining behavioral data collected from 1994 to 2005 (with scans taken between 1997 and 1999 depending on when people entered the study), the researchers divided participants into two groups: one group with 35 cognitively healthy people who stayed free of dementia (average starting age 69.1 years), and the other group with 30 people who showed substantial cognitive decline but were still dementia-free (average starting age 69.2 years).

That cognitive decline was measured by drops of at least 30 percent on two or more of six core tests of verbal learning and fluency, recall, processing speed, and complex information processing, and/or drops of 3 or more points, or scores of 24 or lower (raising suspicion for cognitive impairment), on the Mini-Mental State Examination screening tool for dementia.

In contrast to the 35 people who stayed healthy, the 30 people who declined cognitively over nine years showed a significant effect for age in the hippocampus and parahippocampal areas, and in the frontal and cingulate cortices. In short, among the people whose cognition got worse, older participants had smaller brain areas than younger participants.

Thus, the seeming age-related atrophy in gray matter more likely reflected pathological changes in the brain that underlie significant cognitive decline than aging itself, the authors wrote. As long as people stay cognitively healthy, the researchers believe that the gray matter of areas supporting cognition might not shrink much at all. "If future longitudinal studies find similar results, our conception of 'normal' brain aging may become more optimistic," said lead author Saartje Burgmans, who is due to receive her PhD later this year.

The findings should caution scientists about drawing conclusions from brain studies that don't screen participants over time, using precise and objective definitions, the authors added.

Article: "The Prevalence of Cortical Gray Matter Atrophy May Be Overestimated In the Healthy Aging Brain," Saartje Burgmans, PhD student, Martin P. J. van Boxtel, PhD, MD, Eric F. P. M. Vuurman, PhD, Floortje Smeets, PhD student, and Ed H. B. M. Gronenschild, PhD, Maastricht University; Harry B. M. Uylings, PhD, Maastricht University and VU University Medical Center Amsterdam; and Jelle Jolles, PhD, Maastricht University; Neuropsychology, Vol. 23, No. 5.

(Full text of the article is available from the APA Public Affairs Office and at http://www.apa.org/journals/releases/neu235541.pdf)

Saartje Burgmans can be reached at s.burgmans@np.unimaas.nl or at (+31) 43 3881942.

The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world's largest association of psychologists. APA's membership includes more than 150,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession and as a means of promoting health, education and human welfare.

Public Affairs Office | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.apa.org

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht New study: How does Europe become a leading player for software and IT services?
03.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für System- und Innovationsforschung (ISI)

nachricht Reusable carbon nanotubes could be the water filter of the future, says RIT study
30.03.2017 | Rochester Institute of Technology

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can the immune system be boosted against Staphylococcus aureus by delivery of messenger RNA?

Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.

Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

How herpesviruses win the footrace against the immune system

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

Water forms 'spine of hydration' around DNA, group finds

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

First Juno science results supported by University of Leicester's Jupiter 'forecast'

26.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>