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Brain Mapping Provides Clues to Mental Decline in Elderly
Isn’tÂ it amazing that an organ the size of a small cabbage controls all the functions of your body? The brain is an amazing instrument. It controls your heart, your emotions, your muscles, your senses and your memory. In essence, everything that happens within you is controlled by one large muscle, and like all muscles it starts to weaken with age.
Scientists are just beginning to understand how your brain works.
For years it was believed that your brain was comprised of a number of regions, called lobes, and that each lobe operates independently for different functions:
- The Frontal Lobe is believed to control reasoning, motor skills, and language.
- The Temporal Lobe interprets sounds, what we hear, and the formation of memory.
- The Parietal Lobe processes your senses
- The Occipital Lobe is associated with visual stimulation and interpretation of what you see.
A recent article in the Journal of Neuroscience (26 January 2011 – Discrete Neuroanatomical Networks Are Associated with Specific Cognitive Abilities in Old Age) states that science may have been a little off base. According to the article, a study conducted by the University of New South Wales showed that the brain functions due to a complex network of nerves and not specific regions of the brain as previously thought.
According to the study, an integrated grouping of peripheral nerves, the brain, and the spinal cord make up the â€œinformation-processing and control systemâ€ in a person. It is through this network the body is able to function at its optimum level.
In the study, geared toward an aging population, a group of 342 healthy people between the ages of 72-92 underwent â€œbrain mapping,â€ which consisted of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans while using a new imaging technique called diffusion tensor imaging (DTI). A mathematical technique, called graph theory, allowed the neurologists to measure and observe how the nerves connect. The entire process is known as â€œbrain mapping.â€
The goal of brain mapping is to allow them to see the way the brain processes information, and how the body and brain inter-relate to allow a person to think, feel, react and think. The results of this and related studies will help neurosurgeons and neurobiologists to design treatments of both psychological and psychiatric disorders, including how we age.
If they can localize the areas that are weakened by the use of brain mapping they can get to the cause of many degenerative diseases, as well as age-related mental and physical decline.
Research has found that after the age of 40 the brain begins to slow down naturally, and that affects energy, attention span and memory. The body takes on a whole new set of ailments, is more susceptible to stress-related problems, depression, insomnia and sexual vitality â€“ along with a weakened immune system.
With the use of brain mapping scientists are able to measure the degrees of slowing activity and evaluate where problems can be found. Then, eventually, a program can be designed to return a person to their full potential, at any age, by retraining their nervous system.
In the meantime, research also shows that by stimulating the brain regularly, through the use of memory training techniques, puzzles and brain games, the loss can be minimumilized until a cure can be found.
Discrete Neuroanatomical Networks Are Associated with Specific Cognitive Abilities in Old Age : The Journal of Neuroscience, 26 January 2011, 31(4):1204–1212; doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4085-10.2011