Aging of Brain's Grey Matter Linked to Alzheimer's, Schizophrenia

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Grey matter in the brain, which contains a network of nerve cells involved in processing information from different senses, appears to be more susceptible to early aging, which can lead to Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia.

Gwenaëlle Douaud, PhD, of the Oxford University Functional MRI of the Brain Centre in the United Kingdom, and colleagues, used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans to look at changes in the brain structure of 484 healthy people, ranging in age from 8 to 85 years.

Gray matter is not only one of the last regions of the brain to develop, but it is also one of the first to degenerate, the researchers reported in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. They add the area does not fully develop until late adolescence or early adulthood, and is linked to intellectual capacity and long-term memory.

The researchers compared a specific network in the gray matter found to be vulnerable to aging they had identified from MRI data of healthy subjects’ brains, with patterns of grey matter damage observed in brain scans of people with Alzheimer's and people with schizophrenia.

The researchers found similarities between the three. They suggest that this area of the brain may play a role in the emergence of these two very different disorders.

“These complex regions, which combine information coming from various senses, seem to be more vulnerable than the rest of the brain to both schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s, even though these two diseases have different origins and appear at very different, almost opposite, times of life,” Douaud said in a statement.

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Aging of Brain's Grey Matter Linked to Alzheimer's, Schizophrenia

New research has emerged that reveals a specific brain network — that is the last to develop and the first to show signs of neurodegeneration — is more vulnerable to unhealthy aging as well as to disorders that emerge in young people, shedding light on conditions such as Alzheimer's disease and schizophrenia.

The team focused on grey matter in the brain,  a network of nerve cells that coordinate information from different senses.

The researchers, led by Dr. Gwenaëlle Douaud at the Oxford University Functional MRI of the Brain Centre in the UK, say their work sheds light on potential genetic and environmental factors that may occur early in life, causing lifelong consequences.

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