Login with your Social Account

reward structures in the human brain

Researchers establish links between aging and changes in cognitive abilities of brain networks

In a recent paper published by the researchers, it has been revealed that the functional regions that are present in the brain get less distinct and interconnected with the increase in age. This occurs mainly in the networks related to cognition and attention span. The study has been published in the Journal Of Neuroscience.

Juan Helen Zhou, an Associate Professor and a neuroscientist from Duke-NUS’ Neuroscience and Behavioural Disorders program said that compared to various cross-sectional studies, it is very crucial to understand the changes in brain which take place both due to healthy and pathological aging so as to reduce the rate of cognitive aging.

The human brain has different segregated neuronal networks with very dense internal connections and less inter-connectivity. Aging is considered to be related to decreased functional specialization and separation of the brain networks.

Professor Michael Chee, Director of Duke-NUS’ Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience and Professor Zhou led a team of neuroscientists for this research. For the same purpose, neuropsychological assessments and functional MRI was performed on a group of  57 young adults and 72 healthy elderly Singaporeans. This accumulation of data for research was done over a span of 4 years where the participants were judged on the basis of various tasks like rate of information processing, how good can participants focus. They checked their ability to memorize verbal and visuospatial data along with planning and execution of tasks.

The accretion of those fMRI images was just one part of the research. Dr. Joanna Chong, the first author of the paper and a Ph.D. graduate under Associate Professor Zhou, was given the responsibility to convert the images into much appealing graphical representations helping them to analyze the intra- and inter-network joins in the brain for the individuals which comprised of adult along with elderly generation.

This analysis aided the team in understanding that there are some functions of brain such as goal-oriented thoughts and deciding where to focus attention which gets affected as one ages, since information transferring becomes less efficient and less distinctive.

We can be assured that this research study surely has some promising future applications since aging has been the reason for various neurodegenerative and cerebrovascular diseases which are a concern for both Governments and healthcare departments. Thus, any sort of future work will facilitate in knowing the reasons for aging and will also help in deciphering the ways of preserving and curing it. Researchers have next plans to examine how factors such as genetic, cardiovascular risks, might influence the age-related changes in the brain networks.