Your Brain Shrinks as You AgeOctober 08, 2023
Your Brain Shrinks as You Age
Is this real? Is this normal? What is happening here?
Take 653 cognitively normal adults, 447 men and 206 women, mean age 55 at the beginning and follow them annually with volumetric MRI scans. A total of 7915 scans, roughly 12 each were obtained over that time period. A volumetric MRI scan is able to precisely count the pixels in each brain region and calculate to a very high degree of accuracy the area that particular brain region occupies. When you add the layers together from successive slices of the brain, you get the volume of that nucleus or region of the brain. What happens with aging?
This is the first study of its kind taking cognitively normal adults and observing just what happens to various parts of their brains as they age, one year at a time. Overall, they observed a -0.4% decrease in size, per year in the size of the brain. It was roughly -0.3% in folks in their forties and -0.5% in their 80s. The same pattern was found when looking at white matter. There is annual shrinkage in white matter too. White matter is composed of the axons connecting the neurons to other neurons, or other structures. Those computer cables are coated with plasmalogen lipids with an olive oil (oleic acid) fat on the molecule. That coating is called the myelin. Grey matter typically has plasmalogens with DHA (fish oil) as the side chain.
That average brain was reduced in size by 6.7% over 15 years.
If the volume of the brain is shrinking, then the water regions of the brain must be expanding. That was documented and is indeed, the case. Rates of +1-1.5% a year increase in brain water were observed. There was as much as a 10-fold variability in different subjects, suggesting that those losing more volume may be of interest for future intervention to prevent cognitive loss.
Is this normal? Well, if you read the reports of radiologists who are examining CT scans in ERs, you see the phrase, "normal aging shrinkage" all the time. It's not normal. It's decline and is a problem.
Here is the key takeaway. Goodenowe, in his own personal experiment taking 100 mg/kg per day of plasmalogen supplements increased his brain by 7.9% in just 16 months. He reversed 17 years of aging with his personal experiment.
We may all have normal cognition, at the moment. One of the other takeaways from the study was no person ever had their brain expand. Period. Brain enlargement just doesn't happen without intervention.
The question remains, can you slow it down? Can you address the oxidative stress that is getting the whole thing started? Or are we just preprogrammed to disintegrate with time and get out of the way for the next generation?
www.What will Work for me? I'm trying to wrap my "brain" around this. We all laugh off our senior moments and take it as inevitable. Well, aren't we fortunate to be living in this time? We have an emerging technology to keep our brains healthier. I'm going to start offering volumetric MRI scans to my clients who want to know what is happening to their brains and see what we find over time. It might be a valuable tool, particularly when you consider that your grandchildren are still only 3 years old and you want to be around to see them graduate from more than kindergarten.
References: Jama Network ,
1. Your brain is shrinking at what rate? Answer: depends on how you want to slice this cheese. Different areas, different rates but overall, about 0.4% a year.
2. How many neurons (the computer chips) cells do you have? Neurons: Probably about 200 billion.
3. How many neurons are you losing each day? Answer: These are big numbers, but I get 21 million neurons a day.
4. Why are we losing neurons? Answer: Various forms of oxidative stress that use up the plasmalogen lipids in the membranes of your neurons.
5. Why are you losing plasmalogens? Answer: They are miracle molecules that allow our brains to function at quantum speeds. But they have a vinyl ether bond that is both an amazing neutralizer of peroxide, preventing reactive oxygen species from damaging the neuron, but sacrificing the plasmalogen molecule as a result. We have to consider, what is setting off that oxidative stress.