Home » News » Aging, Healthy Brain Retains Size

Aging, Healthy Brain Retains Size

A new study could revise the belief that older brains are substantially smaller than younger brains. The position reversal may stem from earlier studies including individuals with undiagnosed early brain disease.

As a result, previous findings may have overestimated atrophy and underestimated normal size for the older brain.

The new investigation by Dutch scientists evaluated participants who were free of neurological problems such as dementia, Parkinson’s disease or stroke.

Individuals were issued a battery of neuropsychological tests, including a screening test for dementia, at baseline and every three years afterward for nine years.

According to the report in the journal Neuropsychology, participants were given MRI scans in year 3 to measure seven different parts of the brain, including the memory-laden hippocampus, the areas around it, and the frontal and cingulate areas of the cognitively critical cortex.

As a result of their investigation, researchers posit age-related atrophy in gray matter more likely reflects pathological changes in the brain that underlie significant cognitive decline — rather than aging itself.

In other words, as long as people stay cognitively healthy, their brain may not display significant size reduction.

“If future longitudinal studies find similar results, our conception of ‘normal’ brain aging may become more optimistic,” said lead author Saartje Burgmans.

Source: American Psychological Association

Aging, Healthy Brain Retains Size

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Aging, Healthy Brain Retains Size. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 25, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.