Biology 101 – Aging: Definition, Neurobiology, Physiology, and Process

Aging occurs in many different ways and is a natural process of life. In this article, we delve into the definition, neurobiology and physiology of the aging process as well as tips for maximizing health and aging well 😀

Aging In Different Ways and Dementia

  • severe declines in memory, intelligence, verbal fluency reflect disease processes, NOT aging
  • effects of age on brain are subtle and very selective, not severe
  • forgetfulness and slower responses to conflicting info are part of aging, however
  • DEMENTIA, a progressive and severe impairment in mental function that interferes with daily activities, affects around 6.8 million Americans

Neurobiology and Physiology of Aging

  1. What We Know — And Don’t Know — About Aging
    1. Info From Recent Advances
  • brain reaches maximum weight near age 20
  • subtle changes in brain chemistry/structure begin at midlife for most people
  • normal aging doesn’t cause widespread neuron loss
  • brain tissue response to damage
    • healthy neurons expand dendrites and modify connections with other neurons
    • if cell body intact, damaged neuron can induce changes in axons and dendrites
    • relatively small stem cell populations remain in healthy, adult brain but only contribute to few types of neurons found; number of these stem cells declines over course of aging

Process of Aging and Intellectual Circuitry in Learning

  • some studies show that speed of carrying out some tasks becomes slower but vocab improves, while others show less severe declines in type of intelligence relying on stored info compared to to intelligence related to ability to process new info
  • aging brain depends on circuitry
    • when circuitry breaks down, remaining neurons can adapt so older people can show similar performance to that of young people
  • learning conditions can dictate what happens to brain cells
    • studies of rats showed that older rats responded similarly to younger ones in enriched environments but at a slower rate
    • another study of rats showed that motor learning generates new synapses
      • physical learning improved blood circulation in brain, and thus performance
  • scientists unsure of exactly what causes aging, but the view that physical and mental exercise are effective means of slowing down effects of brain aging is becoming more popular

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5 replies »

  1. This is fascinating. Who knew aging could be such an intricate biological process. I won’t be seeing it the same way again. Brilliant essay.

    Liked by 2 people

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