Changes that occur in brain with age
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Change is the only constant and from birth to death, the human body suffers the ravages of time. Once we become adults, our bodies lose muscle strength and mass as the years go on. Bone loss reduces our skeleton’s mechanical strength. If we are injured, our tendons and ligaments take longer to repair themselves. Like the sensory organs, the brain itself is not immune to aging. Mechanisms associated with aging of brain tissue include inflammation, the effects of free radicals, and hormonal changes. The brain is also subject to damage by factors such as cardiovascular disease, head trauma, unhealthy lifestyles, and chronic stress. Listed below are some changes that occur in our brain with age.

  • One effect that aging has on the brain is to reduce its mass. Although differences in brain size are a poor indicator of relative intelligence when it comes to comparing different species, or the two sexes of a given species, changes in brain size in a given individual do provide a fairly good idea of the corresponding changes in that person’s intellectual faculties. Hence it is interesting to note that the volume of the human brain peaks at about age 14, then gradually declines for the rest of a person’s life.
  • On average, brain mass and volume decrease by about 2% every 10 years. Of course, there are some exceptions that have yet to be explained, where people over 100 years old have suffered little if any loss of brain tissue. Contrary to what was once believed, this decline, seen in most people does not accelerate after they reach age 50. But rather continues at the same pace into old age.
  • Two structures that are important for memory, the medial temporal lobe and the frontal lobe are especially affected. The damage to the neurons also leads to a significant drop in the concentrations of certain neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, a decrease in which is associated with a decline in motor functions.
  • Deterioration of brain over time is not limited to the brain’s grey matter, where the neuron cell bodies are located: the white ma tter, including the axons, suffers damage as well.
  • The brain maintains its plasticity throughout a person’s lifetime, so it has many mechanisms to compensate for the circuits that have deteriorated. But the cognitive functions that these circuits used to perform almost automatically are taken over by alternative neural pathways that are generally less efficient and so some of these functions will be performed more slowly.
  • However, on the whole, our cognitive abilities do not show any major decline until we are in our 50s or early 60s. And even then, in healthy people, performance diminishes very slowly. As changes occur in our brain with age, it therefore becomes harder for people to recall numerous details unless they make a conscious effort to do so.
  • Working memory ”the kind that lets us remember a telephone number for a few seconds, or follow the thread of a conversation” also is often affected by age. The slowdown in processing speed that results from aging of the brain, seems to make information disappear from working memory before we have even been able to consolidate it in long-term memory. The decline in the performance of working memory might therefore also at least partly explain why long-term memory also declines with age.
  • Our ability to retrieve information from memory is also sometimes affected, which explains the phenomenon of having a word ‘at the tip of your tongue’. On the other hand, implicit memory ”the kind involved in conditioning and in motor learning” appears to be less affected by aging, as is our semantic memory of knowledge that we use frequently in the course of our lives. As for our vocabulary, it continues to increase throughout our lives.
  • Over the decades, some people lose some of their ability to focus their attention on the relevant aspects of a set of information. Because these people get distracted by irrelevant details and their reasoning processes become slower.
  • But the most important thing to remember about normal aging of the brain may be that the cognitive repercussions of brain aging vary tremendously from one individual to another. For most people, these impacts are typically minimal, but for some people, changes that occur in brain with age can be severe as to cause.
  • Thus, intellectual decline is not inevitable until what is often an advanced age. And even when such a decline does occur, often it is slight, does not interfere with daily life, and does not necessarily mean the start of dementia. Moreover, in addition to the brain’s own natural compensatory mechanisms, people can use artificial ones, such as mnemonic devices, lists, and calendars. Not to mention the legendary wisdom that is supposed to come with age the ability to make good decisions. But in a world where social and technological change is occurring ever more rapidly, it may still be the better part of wisdom to have a teenager on hand to troubleshoot your computer for you as you grow older.

Somya

Hardworking, studying in LSR second year, a part of Dramatics society of LSR

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