Senior Citizen Brains Grow As Many Cells As Younger People
Senior citizen brains, specifically those of healthy seniors aged 70+, can generate as many brain cells, as younger people do, according to a new study.
Researchers at Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatric Institute autopsied a section of the brain called the hippocampus. This brain area processes learning information as well as short and long-term memories.
Twenty-eight people ranging from ages 14 to 79 had died suddenly, after previously being in good health. None had cognitive impairment. It was the first attempt to look at newly formed neurons and blood vessels in the hippocampus soon after death,.
The results were surprising. The older people showed a similar ability to make thousands of hippocampal new neurons just like the younger people do. The researchers also found equivalent volumes of the hippocampus in both age groups.
In addition, the brains of the oldest individuals in the study had continued to make new neurons up until death.
However, the older brains didn’t perform quite as well in other ways. Specifically, they did not form as many blood vessels and had less ability to make connections between nerve cell.
Nevertheless, these findings are important. They show the brain’s continued ability to make healthy neurons during the aging years, and suggest that healthy older people can remain sharper and more cognitively intact as they age, than was commonly believed.