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Aging brains can continue to make new healthy neurons, a recent study shows. Indeed, healthy seniors in their  seventies have as many young neurons essential for learning and memory as a teenager does.

 

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Aging, Brain Study Results

Researchers examined the brains of healthy people, aged 14 to 79, and found similar numbers of young neurons throughout adulthood. They also found a smaller number of neural stem cells in a brain area known to help cope with stressful circumstances.

Overall, results showed no decline in the numbers of young neurons with age, suggesting that the healthy human brain keeps making new neurons throughout life. Indeed the brains of elderly people had thousands of intermediate cells that are important for the retention of memories.

 

Aging, Conclusion From The Data

These findings suggest healthy elderly people may have more functioning neurons to help learning and memory than previously believed.

These latest findings come from the NIH-funded lab of Maura Boldrini at Columbia University, New York. The focus of this lab is on the ability to learn and adapt. The researchers study in the brains of people with treated and untreated mood disorders including depression.

Boldrini and colleagues had access to an unusual collection of well-preserved brain samples representing a wide range of ages.The autopsied tissue samples included the whole hippocampus, which is a region of the brain essential for learning and memory. The brains were also fresh frozen within hours of death to ensure they were well preserved.

 

Aging, Conclusion

Overall, results showed no decline in the numbers of young neurons with age. This suggests that the healthy human brain keeps making new neurons throughout life. The hippocampus of elderly people had thousands of intermediate cells that produce other essential neural cells types, such as glial cells.

Aging people may have plenty of new neurons to work with, given the right supports. This finding may ultimately suggest new approaches, including lifestyle interventions or medications, to encourage healthy aging.

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