The Aging Process

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Image: Laboratory of Neuro Imaging and Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Consortium of the Human Connectome Project – www.humanconnectomeproject.org

Cognitive function in aging humans declines in all domains, dramatically increasing the risk for neurodegeneration and disorders including Alzheimer’s disease. Rodents and other animal species with a fraction of the human lifespan show similar cognitive deterioration, indicating that specific biological processes, rather than time alone, are responsible for brain aging. While age-related cognitive dysfunction and dementia in humans are distinct entities, the aging brain shows the telltale molecular and cellular changes that characterize most neurodegenerative diseases, including synaptic loss, dysfunctional autophagy, increased inflammation, and protein aggregation. Remarkably, the aging brain remains plastic and exercise or dietary changes, may be beneficial to increase cognition in humans and animals. By identifying the effective underlying peripheral mechanisms that can be modulated, we intend to harness their potential and provide significant impact on life quality.