Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Memory aging and brain maintenance

An open access article by Nyberg et al. notes
The association of intact memory functioning in old age with maintenance and preservation of a functionally young and healthy brain may seem obvious. However, up to the present the focus has largely been on possible forms of compensatory brain responses. This is so, even though it remains unclear whether memory performance in old age can benefit from altered patterns of brain activation, with almost as many studies showing positive as negative relationships.
Their abstract suggests the relevance of "brain maintenance":
Episodic memory and working memory decline with advancing age. Nevertheless, large-scale population-based studies document well-preserved memory functioning in some older individuals. The influential ‘reserve’ notion holds that individual differences in brain characteristics or in the manner people process tasks allow some individuals to cope better than others with brain pathology and hence show preserved memory performance. Here, we discuss a complementary concept, that of brain maintenance (or relative lack of brain pathology), and argue that it constitutes the primary determinant of successful memory aging. We discuss evidence for brain maintenance at different levels: cellular, neurochemical, gray- and white-matter integrity, and systems-level activation patterns. Various genetic and lifestyle factors support brain maintenance in aging and interventions may be designed to promote maintenance of brain structure and function in late life.
The figures are worth a look, for they illustrate how a fraction of older individuals have brains that, at different levels of brain organization, are similar to younger brains in their relative lack of brain pathology. They say very little about the "lifestyle factors" or "interventions" that might promote brain maintenance.

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