CogniFit's Science blog: Do Brains Shrink With Age?

Do Brains Shrink With Age?

In the past, many scientists believed that as we age, our brains get smaller. But a new study has shown that “healthy” brains show very little deterioration and that only when people experience a decline in their cognition that significant shrinking of their brains happen.

The study was conducted at Maastricht University in the Netherlands and its results suggest that studies done until now simply did not exclude people who were already experiencing cognitive decline.

The researchers studied data from 65 “healthy” individuals over a period of nine years. Then the participants were divided into two groups: A “healthy” group of 35 who did not show signs of mental decline, and another group of 30 people who showed substantial cognitive and brain function decline, but who did not have dementia. The average age of the participants was 69 at the beginning of the study.

Brain scans of seven regions of the brain associated with cognition were analyzed. In the healthy group, age did not have a significant effect on brain size. The other group showed a large effect in all seven brain areas and the older participants had significantly smaller brain areas than younger one.

Scientists warn that this study was small and further studies are needed but the results demonstrate that it is important for scientists studying the aging brain must assess the cognition of their participants over a number of years and not just at one point in their lives.