During adolescence the brain goes through a process of synaptic pruning. Which facilitates productive change in neural structure by reducing the overall number of neurons or connections, leaving more efficient synaptic configurations.
It is often a metaphor used to describe the maturation of behavior and cognitive intelligence in children in terms of "weeding out" the weaker synapses.
Children activate different and more regions of their brains than adults when they perform word tasks, according to investigators at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Reporting in the journal Cerebral Cortex, the researchers say those changes in regional brain activity from childhood to adulthood may reflect the more efficient use of our brains as we mature.
The Change As a person ages their bodies change drastically especially physically, But did you know the brain also goes through periods of structural changes. Some of which are positive, others not so much. As you age the cerebral ventricles expand. This process is called ventriculomegaly. Some brain regions shrink up to 1% per year, whereas others may stay pretty stable till the end of your lifespan. Different tissues of the brain might be more susceptible to age than others. Depending on a person’s susceptibility to neuropathology can determine whether a person ages gracefully. 3
Your Brain Matters The brain matter can be classified as “Gray Matter” &“White Matter.” Gray matter consists of cell bodies in the cortex & sub cortical nuclei. Where White matter is consisted of tightly packed axons connecting the neurons of the cer. cortex to each other & the periphery so they can communicate. These two components of matter make up the central nervous system. Which chan- ges during the aging process. 4
Brain Drain (Alzheimers) 5
Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia among people 65 and older.
Alzheimer’s is a degenerative disease meaning that it attacks the brain progressively getting worse as time goes on.
Alzheimers Diseased Brain
Scientists generally agree that “Lifestyle Factors” such as dietary habits, high blood pressure, & high cholesterol influence one’s risk of gaining Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s Stages 6
Parkinson’s Disease Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disorder of the nervous system. It results from the death of dopamine containing cells in the substantianigra region in the mid brain. The cause of cellular death is unknown. 7
Age is the largest risk factor for the development and progression of Parkinson’s.
Men are affected about 1.2 – 2 times more often than women.
Individuals with family history.
Head trauma, illness, or exposure to environmental toxins is a risk factor as well.
Symptoms (Primary) 8 Tremors - Trembling in fingers, hands, arms, feet, legs, jaw, or head. most often tremors occur while the individual is resting, but not while involved in a task. Tremors may worsen when an individual is excited, tired, or stressed. Rigidity - Stiffness of the limbs and trunk, which may increase during movement. Rigidity may produce muscle aches and pain. Loss of fine hand movements can lead to cramped handwriting (micrographia) and may make eating difficult. Bradykinesia - Slowness of voluntary movement. Over time, it may become difficult to initiate movement and to complete movement. Bradykinesia together with stiffness can also affect the facial muscles and result in an expressionless, "mask-like" appearance. Postural Instability - Impaired or lost reflexes can make it difficult to adjust posture to maintain balance. Postural instability may lead to falls. Parkinsonian Gait - Individuals with more progressive Parkinson's disease develop a distinctive shuffling walk with a stooped position and a diminished or absent arm swing. It may become difficult to start walking and to make turns. Individuals may freeze in mid-stride and appear to fall forward while walking.
Symptoms (Secondary) While the main symptoms of Parkinson's disease are movement-related, progressive loss of muscle control and continued damage to the brain can lead to secondary symptoms. These vary in severity, and not every individual will experience all of them. Some of the secondary symptoms include Anxiety, Insecurity, & Stress. Confusion, Memory Loss, Dementia. (Most Common In Elderly People) Constipation. Depression. Difficulty Swallowing & Excessive Salivation. Diminished Sense Of Smell. Increased Sweating. Skin Problems. Slowed Quieter Speech, & Monotone Voice. Urinary Frequency/Urgency 9
Delaying Aging 10 Exercising daily is not only beneficial to your body’s muscles but also to the brain. Physical education keeps the brain strong and has been proven to play a part in delaying cognitive decline. Stress can cause a person’s brain to overload with hormones that are intended for short term duty for emergency situations their effect damages and kills brain cells. This overload of stress minimizes one’s ability to remember & learn. Networks are more important than you would think. Maintaining relationships keeps the brain from slowing down and becoming inactive enough to start major problems that come with aging. Diet and maintaining one keeps the brain healthy through it’s ability to keep the heart healthy. i.e. Omega-3 fatty acids, & protective antioxidants.
Environmental Effects Genetics and Environmental influences play two significant roles in the aging process. Research has shown that a person’s level of education has serious effects on the brain’s functions. Lack of achievement educationally can lead to the quicker decline of memory and leading dementia. Studies show individuals with higher educational standards increase their ability to age gracefully in their life cycle. Using patterns of connectivity over and over end up proving useful to us in our lives. Making the synapses broader and the connections between neurons valuable strengthening our system to become stronger. Studies show a solid 8 hours of sleep per night helps protect against age related illnesses, according to studies done by David Walsh, Ph.D 11
Brain Food 12 B Vitamin supplements can help the brain progress in a more natural healthy way steering away from dementia and other age related diseases. The risk of developing Alzheimer’s is strongly linked to your level of toxic amino acid homocysteine. Omega-3 fats are most prevalent in carnivorous, cold water fish such as salmon, tuna, herring and mackerel. According to a study by Dr. Martha Morris and colleagues at Chicago’s Rush Institute for Healthy Aging, eating fish once a week reduces your risk of developing Alzheimer’s by 60 percent Antioxidantsintake such as vitamin –A, beta-carotene, & vitamins C and E, all of which have been shown to be low in those with Alzheimer’s. Eating a lot more fresh fruit and vegetables at least six portions a day & oily fish and seeds improve keeping a lasting brain. Herbs such as GinkoBiloba has demonstrated potential memory enhancing effects in the elderly. Current studies have shown mild improvement for those who were not diagnosed with dementia. Ginko may therefore play a role in the prevention.
Muscles Your brain is a thinking organ that learns and grows by interacting with the world through perception and action. Mental stimulation improves brain function and actually protects against cognitive decline, as does physical exercise. The human brain is able to continually adapt and rewire itself. Even in old age, it can grow new neurons. Severe mental decline is usually caused by disease, whereas most age-related losses in memory or motor skills simply result from inactivity and a lack of mental exercise and stimulation. The original need for a nervous system was to coordinate movement, so an organism could go find food, instead of waiting for the food to come to it. Movement. In fact, a diminished ability to move is a good measure of aging. Inflexibility helps death, while a flexible body and fluid mind are the hallmarks of youth Elasticity is the basic animal drive that powers your muscles, giving you strength and balance – flexibility, mobility, and grace. Plasticity is the basic mental drive that networks your brain, giving you cognition and memory – fluidity, versatility, and adaptability. 13
Treatment Alzheimer’s Treatment Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer's. But drug and non-drug treatments may help with both cognitive and behavioral symptoms. Researchers are looking for new treatments to alter the course of the disease and improve the quality of life for people with dementia.
Medications - Although current medications cannot cure Alzheimer’s or stop it from progressing, they may help lessen symptoms, such as memory loss and confusion, for a limited time.
The U.S food and drug administration has approved two types of medications.Cholinesterase Inhibitors&Memantineused to treat symptoms like (memory loss, confusion, & problems with thinking & reasoning.)
current medications cannot stop the damage Alzheimer’s causes to brain cells, they may help lessen or stabilize symptoms for a limited time by affecting certain chemicals involved in carrying messages among the brain's nerve cells. Doctors sometimes prescribe both types of medications together. Some doctors also prescribe high doses of vitamin E for cognitive changes of Alzheimer's disease.
Behavioral Changes Many people find the changes in behavior caused by Alzheimer's to be the most challenging and distressing effect of the disease. The chief cause of behavioral symptoms is the progressive deterioration of brain cells. However, medication, environmental influences and some medical conditions also can cause symptoms or make them worse. In early stages, people may experience behavior and personality changes such as: Irritability. Anxiety. Depression. In later stages, other symptoms may occur including: Anger. Agitation. Aggression. Emotional Distress. Verbal & Physical Outbursts. Restlessness. Hullucinations. Delusions. Sleep Disturbances. 15
The Brain Game Would you like to know how old your brain is? If so then take a crack at this quick little game to test your skills. The game consists of 5 parts. (Memory, Attention, Language, Reactions & Visual.) The more levels you clear in each category the better you do. Once you finish the test will give you your age. The lower the age the better the brain power. http://www.freebrainagegames.com/training/memory recall.html 16
Annotated bibliography Aging and Disease Vol. 2 Number 3 (Book) I found this to be very informative when it came to the straight facts about aging. It gave me a lot more information then I would have thought in terms that I could understand easily. It shared many examples with accurate designs to illustrate the aging processes and effects throughout the human body. The Aging Brain (Magazine) This magazine from USC Health written by: Monika Guttman Gave me tons of information as to how the brain works when cells start to diminish and how it works differently When the diseases set in. Parkinson’s Disease (Website) This website gave me pretty much all the information I could have ever wanted concerning age related diseases, specifically Parkinson’s disease. It gave me a slideshow of the stages so I could see first hand how the disease attaches itself and tears away the neurons. And the differences in the disease when it comes to men and women. Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease (Website) I absolutely loved this website! It gave me all the stages of Alzheimer’s disease along with a detailed description of each stage as it progresses. In terms that I could understand immediately where I would feel confident sharing with my classmates and friends what I have learned. 17