What Happens to Our Brains As We Age?

Neuroscience, Central Nervous System
Neuroscience Clinical Research - Brain Ages

At Worldwide Clinical Trials, we’re excited about what the latest neuroscience research studies are telling us about how our brains develop and age.

The Young Brain

In Spring 2015, Neuroscience Quarterly reported that early-life experiences have a strong impact on the development of the human brain. While stress during pregnancy or trauma during childhood can spark negative consequences later in life, loving bonds with caregivers can foster brain development. For example, researchers found that prenatal exposure to high levels of air pollution contributed to anxiety, depression, and attention deficit disorder, and factors such as maternal stress can exacerbate the damage of environmental toxins.

Further research on the prenatal brain could lead to treatments and procedures for protecting and promoting healthy brain development in early childhood.

The Learning Brain

A March 2016 study in Nature Communications found a surprising contradiction: while learning, the brain is actively trying to erase memories and forget. When researchers blocked the main neural route by which mice acquired new memories, the mice were no longer capable of learning a new Pavlovian response, but could still remember previously learned responses. This suggests that there is limited space for storing memories in the brain, which could be key in uncovering advances in learning or in helping people forget traumatic experiences.

The Senior Brain

In March 2016, researchers at the University of California demonstrated for the first time that brain scans can pick up Alzheimer’s disease in the earliest stage and shed new light into how tau protein tangles, together with amyloid plaques, trigger the disease. As the brain ages, tangled and twisted tau protein impedes connections between brain cells. While this is a natural process in the hippocampus, it causes Alzheimer’s when it reaches beyond the memory center of the brain. Scientists were able to pinpoint the moment that the disease was triggered and track its development—a revolutionary accomplishment that may lead to early-intervention treatments for Alzheimer’s patients.

Further research on brain aging will continue to teach us about our brains and how we can protect them, from early childhood to the latest stages of adulthood.

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