Cognitive Neuroscience of Aging: Linking Cognitive and Cerebral Aging

By Roberto Cabeza; Lars Nyberg et al. | Go to book overview

2
The Aging Brain Observed in Vivo
Differential Changes and Their Modifiers

Naftali Raz

Thoughts of a dry brain in a dry season.

—T. S. Eliot, Gerontion

Aging is a manifold of universal biological processes that, with passage of time, profoundly alter anatomy, neurochemistry, and physiology of all organisms. Although no organs or systems escape the impact of aging, its effects on the central nervous system (CNS) are especially dramatic. The brains of older people can be distinguished from those of their younger peers in many ways and on many levels, from mitochondria to gross anatomy. So numerous and diverse are the changes that encompassing the totality of brain aging in one survey would be too daunting an objective. Thus, for comprehensive up-to-date accounts of neurobiology and neurophysiology of aging as well as surveys of the classic postmortem findings the reader is directed to readily available recent reviews (Arendt, 2001; Rosenzweig & Barnes, 2003; Uylings & de Brabander, 2002; Kemper, 1994; Giannakopoulos et al., 1997). On the other pole of the cell-to-thought continuum, several concise appraisals of functional brain aging have appeared (Cabeza, 2002; Reuter-Lorenz, 2002; Grady, 2000), and those accounts are augmented by several chapters of this volume.

My intent, therefore, is to concentrate on a relatively narrow, albeit rapidly developing, field: in vivo neuroanatomy of aging. Even in that narrow domain, it would be too ambitious (and somewhat redundant) to cover all the literature from the inception of in vivo imaging of the aging brain. Therefore, this review should be read in conjunction with the surveys of brain aging available in the extant literature. In particular, this chapter is intended as an update of a previous review (Raz, 2000) in which age-related brain differences were surveyed in the context of cognitive aging.

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