Research Topic

Understanding Brain Aging

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Brain aging is a complex process that is likely influenced by systemic, genetic and psychosocial factors. Moreover, complex interactions between these factors along with manifestations of disease will modify brain aging. The aging brain impacts on the body at very least through neurohormonal and ...

Brain aging is a complex process that is likely influenced by systemic, genetic and psychosocial factors. Moreover, complex interactions between these factors along with manifestations of disease will modify brain aging. The aging brain impacts on the body at very least through neurohormonal and neuroimmunological mechanisms, and through the autonomous nervous system. Moreover, brain aging seems to be correlated with neurodegenerative diseases. From this it becomes clear that we currently only know the “tip of the iceberg” but research methodologies constantly offer deeper insights into the structures and mechanisms involved.

In this collection we will address various aspects of the field. Firstly, important new techniques in brain imaging and bioinformatics like machine learning approaches that have been developed, but for which refinements are still necessary. Secondly, through large scale international research collaboration in genetics the research community has discovered many “risk genes”, however, biological understanding of the underlying mechanisms still needs to be accomplished. Increasingly it becomes clear that so-called “risk genes” for one condition have beneficial properties in other conditions. One classical example for this is the longstanding major risk gene APOE with the risk allele APOE4 for Alzheimer's Disease. Thirdly, new imaging techniques have enabled researchers to detect changes in the brain´s white matter fibre tracts in greater detail. It is of utmost importance to understand the role of these white matter changes in the process of the brain aging and neurodegeneration. Another overarching question to the field is how useful and valid classical concepts of brain diseases are for research purposes and for future clinical application. It is yet to be determined whether numerous dimensional scores capturing brain structural and functional features, neuropsychological performance and genetic risk as well as protective factors will represent the future tools for clinicians and scientists. In all, these new data and results need scientific consideration, discussion and integration into current concepts. Finally, the Psychiatric aspect of this research will be considered to help with elucidating the behavioural aspects of the aging brain. Manuscripts representing translational research bridging this gap are welcomed.


Keywords: Brain Aging, Gerontopsychiatry, neurodegeneration, dementia, Alzheimer's, aging neuroscience


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