The Aging Brain
RESOURCES FOR UNDERSTANDING THE BRAIN AND HOW IT CHANGES AS WE AGE
Welcome to Dr. Sterling's Aging Brain Web Page!
The mission of this page is to provide you with information and resources for understanding how the brain changes as we age and what we know about how it repairs itself and how to keep it as healthy as possible.
The Brain Goes Through Many Phases as we Age.
Below, please find several excellent Web sites that are devoted to understanding brain structure, development, and the "aging brain." The words "aging brain" are in quotes because we often think that because the brain is aging, it is also deteriorating. This is not necessarily true. Aging does not mean deteriorating.
Melatonin -- A Supplement That May be Helpful.
The brain goes through many phases throughout our lifetime. Some phases are characterized by loss of neurons, such as in adolescence, when a large amount of "pruning of neurons" takes place. We now know that older brains may lose some brain cells but that there are many gains in certain types of thinking abilities. Loss of brain cells is not necessarily bad.
In addition, there is a common belief that depression is a normal part of aging. It isn't! For more resources related to depression in older people, please see the special section futher below entitled "Depression is Not a Normal Part of Aging!"
If you have any suggestions for links to resources about the aging brain, please e-mail Dr. Sterling at the address noted at the bottom of this page.
- Do you want almost the whole story on the brain? The Society for Neuroscience Web site has a 52-page e-book (Adobe Acrobat format) on the brain and nervous system which is very easy to understand and is nicely illustrated. Go to Brain Facts to find a synopsis of the book.
- HealthCentral.com article posted January 19, 2004 -- Vitamins E and C May Fend Off Alzheimer's -- A study finds that a combination of the two nutrients buffers the brain better than either on its own.
- Seattle Times article posted September 15, 2003 -- Don't forget to flex your brain.
- SunSpot.net article posted August 11, 2003 reviews several factors involved in brain fitness -- Taking control of memory loss: Exercise, chess and diets rich in omega-3 fats and antioxidants are among ways found to slow memory decay. If the original article is no longer available, please go to the Adobe Acrobat Version -- Taking control of memory loss.
- Psychology Today article posted August 2003 -- Fasting Away Disease?
- From PubMed.com, posted August 2003 -- Abstract of Swedish Study Published in 2003 -- Does aspirin protect against Alzheimer's dementia? A study in a Swedish population-based sample.
- Washington Post article posted July 15, 2003 -- Study Links Excess Weight To Likelihood of Alzheimer's.
- Washington Post article posted June 18, 2003 -- Mind Games May Trump Alzheimer's which is a small .pdf, Adobe Acrobat File. Some Washington Post articles become unavailable after two weeks.
- CNN.com article posted April 30, 2003 -- Keeping health in mind: 10 steps to keep your memory sharp.
- Seattle Times article posted February 4, 2003 -- Blood sugar linked to loss of memory.
- The Society for Neuroscience Web site article posted December 2002 -- Physical Exercise and the Brain.
- Public Broadcasting, Winter 2002 -- The Secret Life of the Brain which includes the The Aging Brain.
- From BBC News, article posted September 23, 2002 -- Aspirin 'protects against Alzheimer's.
- From National Emergency Medicine Association -- Alzheimer's & Aspirin.
- From GlobalAging.org, article posted November 22, 2001 -- Hints of an Alzheimer's Aid in Anti-Inflammatory Drugs.
- InfoAging.org, posted November 2001 -- How does the brain change with age? This is a very comprehensive look at the upside and downside of the aging brain.
- USC Health Magazine, posted Spring 2001 -- The Aging Brain.
- The Society for Neuroscience Web site article posted January 2000 -- Physical Exercise and the Brain.
- American Psychological Association, posted January 2000 -- Successful aging: The Second 50 -- Psychologists' research is changing attitudes about what it takes to live the good--and longer--life.
- Asaging.org, posted June 1998 -- Marian Diamond's Optimism about the Aging Brain.
- Society for Neuroscience, posted Spring 1995 -- Brain Reorganization.
- University of California, Irvine -- The Institute for Brain Aging and Dementia.
- MentalAgility.com -- Build the Ability to Stay Mentally Sharp at All Ages.
Discovered about 45 years ago, melatonin is a hormone that is produced in humans by our pea-sized pineal gland located in our brain just above the cerebellum. Melatonin is classified as a hormone because it has widespread effects in the body. Melatonin is available as a dietary supplement, sold over-the-counter in many drug stores. Because melatonin is a hormone that is part of the human sleep-wake cycle, many studies have been conducted to find out if the ingestion of melatonin is helpful in treating sleep disorders. It has also been studied to find out if it has positive effects on lowering blood pressure and whether it increases cognitive abilities in normal older adults.
Depression is Not a Normal Part of Aging!
Melatonin is released into our bloodstream during darkness. During daylight hours, melatonin levels are barely detectable. Light exposure to our retinas is transmitted to the pineal gland to switch it on or off. Even a brief exposure to bright light in the middle of the night can decrease the melatonin surge. Below are several links to articles, information, and research related to melatonin.
The Hippocampus -- Small but Important Part of Human Brain.
Older Adult Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) -- also called Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disoder (ADHD) -- in younger adults only started receiving proper attention in the last eight years. This means that in the over-50 population, the diagnosis and treatment of ADD is under-researched and lags way behind. Historically, ADD in children has received the most attention because of the challenges that hyperactive, impulsive children caused for school systems. ADD has two types of expression -- a hyperactive type and what I call a "day-dreamer" type.
I favor using the term Attention Deficit Disorder because it helps combat the misperception that some form of hyperactivity is necessary for the diagnosis to be made. Hyperactivity does not have to be present to make the ADD diagnosis.
It used to be thought that children with ADD grew out of it, but it became evident that what they were actually growing out of was just the hyperactive component. Many children with ADD became adults with untreated ADD. Many were never diagnosed during their school years because they weren't causing problems (the day-dreamer type). They often experienced failures in higher education and had lifestyles of rapidly changing jobs, poor work skills, and difficult relationships. Due to frequent failures, adults with ADD often get depressed and experience chronic low self-esteem.
Here are a few signs of ADD in adults: (1) Inattention and memory problems -- losing or forgetting things, being absent-minded, not finishing things, misjudging time, trouble getting started ("procrastination"); (2) Hyperactivity and restlessness; and, (3) Impulsivity and emotional instability -- saying things without thinking first, interrupting others, easily frustrated and angered, unpredictable moods, driving recklessly. ADD seems to be distributed equally between women and men.
To read Dr. Sterling's complete article on ADD and older adults please go to Older Adult Attention Deficit Disorder.
Not all people with ADD have difficulties and problems. There are people who, because of their particular circumstances, intelligence level, or support system, do very well. They may be very creative and energetic, and accomplish a lot. However, in those people who are experiencing mostly the downside of ADD, I recommend a thorough evaluation and a treatment plan.
To read more about Adult Attention Deficit Disorder, please go to our All About Adult ADD Web site.
If you are visiting this page after reading Dr. Sterling's October 2004 Mind Matters article, you already know a little bit about the differences between a true dementia and a "pseudodementia." For those of you who have not read that article, please go to Reversible Dementias.
Read More about Mental Wellness.
Below you will find links to resources for understanding dementia and, especially, for understanding the differences between true dementias and "false" dementias and dementia and delirium. In this period of time in the United States, it is more important than ever that younger adults with aging parents learn as much as they can about the dementias and delirium so that they can be informed and up-to-date on issues they may be challenged with as their parents grow older.
- BrainExplorer.org, sponsored by the Lundbeck Institute, is one of the most readable and comprehensive Web sites for learning about the brain. The following are pages devoted to understanding dementias and delirium.
- From All About Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus -- Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus.
Visit MentalWellness.ws to get comprehensive information about mental wellness, including discussions about brain fitness, exercise, resilience, self-appreciation, social networking, and love.
Thank You for Stopping By!
Thank you for visiting! Please check back often for updated information.
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Updated October 7, 2007
Copyright 2000-2007. Ron Sterling, M.D. All Rights Reserved.