Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Well-connected brains make you smarter in older age

Date:
May 23, 2012
Source:
University of Edinburgh
Summary:
Brains that maintain healthy nerve connections as we age help keep us sharp in later life, new research has found.

Brains that maintain healthy nerve connections as we age help keep us sharp in later life, new research funded by the charity Age UK has found.

Older people with robust brain 'wiring' -- that is, the nerve fibers that connect different, distant brain areas -- can process information quickly and that this makes them generally smarter, the study suggests.

According to the findings, joining distant parts of the brain together with better wiring improves mental performance, suggesting that intelligence is not found in a single part of the brain.

However a loss of condition of this wiring or 'white matter' -- the billions of nerve fibers that transmit signals around the brain -- can negatively affect our intelligence by altering these networks and slowing down our processing speed.

The research by the University of Edinburgh shows for the first time that the deterioration of white matter with age is likely to be a significant cause of age-related cognitive decline.

The research team used three different brain imaging techniques in compiling the results, including two that have never been used before in the study of intelligence.

These techniques measure the amount of water in brain tissue, indicate structural loss in the brain, and show how well the nerve fibers are insulated.

The researchers examined scans and results of thinking and reaction time tests from 420 people in the Lothian Birth Cohort of 1936, a group of nearly 1100 people whose intelligence & general health have been tracked since they were 11

The research was part of the Disconnected Mind Project, a large study of the causes of people's differences in cognitive aging, led by Professor Ian Deary.

Study author Doctor Lars Penke said "Our results suggest a first plausible way how brain structure differences lead to higher intelligence. The results are exciting for our understanding of human intelligence differences at all ages."

"They also suggest a clear target for seeking treatment for mental difficulties, be they pathological or age-related. That the brain's nerve connections tend to stay the same throughout the brain means we can now look at factors that affect the overall condition of the brain, like its bloody supply."

Professor Deary said that uncovering the secrets of good thinking skills in old age is a high priority. "The research team is now looking at what keeps the brain's connections healthy. We value our thinking skills, and research should address how we might retain them or slow their decline with age."

Doctor Mark Bastin, who co-authored the study, said "These findings are exciting as they show how quantitative brain imaging can provide novel insights into the links between brain structure and cognitive ability. This is a key research area given the importance of identifying strategies for retaining good mental ability into older age."

Professor James Goodwin, Head of Research at Age UK, said: "This research is very exciting as it could have a real impact on tackling mental decline in later life, including dementia. With new understanding on how the brain functions we can work out why mental faculties decline with age in some people and not others and look at what can be done to improve our minds' chances of aging better."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Edinburgh. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. L Penke, S Muñoz Maniega, M E Bastin, M C Valdés Hernández, C Murray, N A Royle, J M Starr, J M Wardlaw, I J Deary. Brain white matter tract integrity as a neural foundation for general intelligence. Molecular Psychiatry, 2012; DOI: 10.1038/mp.2012.66

Cite This Page:

University of Edinburgh. "Well-connected brains make you smarter in older age." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 May 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120523102958.htm>.
University of Edinburgh. (2012, May 23). Well-connected brains make you smarter in older age. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120523102958.htm
University of Edinburgh. "Well-connected brains make you smarter in older age." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120523102958.htm (accessed August 21, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Do More Wedding Guests Make A Happier Marriage?

Do More Wedding Guests Make A Happier Marriage?

Newsy (Aug. 20, 2014) — A new study found couples who had at least 150 guests at their weddings were more likely to report being happy in their marriages. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Charter Schools Alter Post-Katrina Landscape

Charter Schools Alter Post-Katrina Landscape

AP (Aug. 20, 2014) — Nine years after Hurricane Katrina, charter schools are the new reality of public education in New Orleans. The state of Louisiana took over most of the city's public schools after the killer storm in 2005. (Aug. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

AP (Aug. 19, 2014) — Four Texas high school football programs are trying out an experimental system designed to diagnose concussions on the field. The technology is in response to growing concern over head trauma in America's most watched sport. (Aug. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Kids' Drawings At Age 4 Linked To Intelligence At Age 14

Kids' Drawings At Age 4 Linked To Intelligence At Age 14

Newsy (Aug. 19, 2014) — A study by King's College London says there's a link between how well kids draw at age 4 and how intelligent they are later in life. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins