A new study provides fresh evidence that the decline in the capacity of brain cells to change, called “plasticity,” rather than a decline in total cell number may underlie some of the sensory and cognitive declines associated with normal brain aging. Scientists at MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and memory show that inhibitory interneurons in the visual cortex of mice remain just as abundant during aging, but their arbors become simplified and they become much less structurally dynamic and flexible.
In their experiments published online in the Journal of Neuroscience they also show that they could restore a significant degree of lost plasticity to the cells by giving treating mice with the commonly used antidepressant medication fluoxetine, also known as Prozac.
“Despite common belief, loss of neurons due to cell death is quite limited during normal aging and unlikely to account for age-related functional impairments,” wrote the scientists, including lead author Ronen Eavri and corresponding author Elly Nedivi, a professor of biology and brain and cognitive sciences. “Rather it seems that structural alterations in neuronal morphology and synaptic connections are features most consistently correlated with brain age, and may be considered as the potential physical basis for the age-related decline.”
The Latest on: Reversing cognitive decline
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The Latest on: Reversing cognitive decline
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