Brain Aging (and Injury?)

CRAIN'S COMMENTS

Researchers at the Stevens Institute of Technology (New Jersey) have reported findings that affect memory and motor control. While I usually don’t focus on early exploratory research, what they’ve done has implications affecting a large number of people.

Most studies of brain function focus on electrical connections in the brain. The Stevens group approached the topic from a mechanical engineering perspective, looking at the physical structure.

So called “white matter” nests around neurons in the brain and carries electrical messages from one neuron to another. As people age — and potentially under other circumstances — this white matter develops lesions that interrupt message transfer. The interruptions affect the ability to recall things, as well as movement control. In medical terms, these lesions are “deep and periventricular white matter hyperintensities.”

The Stevens group identified that leaks of cerebral spinal fluid into the brain can cause these lesions. The lining separating the…

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