Research Topic

Behavioral and Cognitive Impairments Across the Life Span

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The increasing economic burden and growing demand for care due to cognitive impairments pose a serious challenge to clinicians and researchers. For this reason, cognitive impairment needs to be addressed with comprehensive and coordinated approaches.

Behavioral alterations are highly associated with ...

The increasing economic burden and growing demand for care due to cognitive impairments pose a serious challenge to clinicians and researchers. For this reason, cognitive impairment needs to be addressed with comprehensive and coordinated approaches.

Behavioral alterations are highly associated with cognitive disorders, being present even years before being clinically assessed as cognitive impairments. For instance, pathogenic processes of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) start decades before the clinical onset of the disease. During this preclinical phase, there is a gradual loss of axons and neurons, and at a certain threshold the first symptoms such as impaired episodic memory, appear. Similarly, in children, neurocognitive and behavioral impairments become more evident when they start their social life. Both in children and AD patients, early intervention is crucial to increase the chance of rehabilitation. It is noteworthy that behavioral and cognitive disorders, which are expressed at different stages of life, share several mechanisms and processes.

To date, unfortunately, studies have not adequately underlined and discriminated these mechanisms. Moreover, available biomarkers of neuroplasticity and neurodegeneration tend to describe specific aspects of the overall clinical state and are only modestly associated with clinically meaningful manifestations.
Neuronal circuits and plasticity are defined during fetal development by genetic patterns and epigenetic effects of maternal environment. The ongoing developmental process, together with lifespan and environmental experience impact on neuronal morphology and plasticity in a different fashion, influencing behavioral and cognitive processes during aging.

To date, there are still not enough studies, specifically addressing and discriminating among the mechanisms. Moreover, available biomarkers of neuroplasticity and neurodegeneration tend to describe specific aspects of the overall clinical state and are only modestly associated with clinically meaningful manifestations. Many neuropsychiatric disorders (e.g. bipolar disorders) show cognitive and behavioral dysfunctions that are persistent across the life span and are linked to an increased risk of neurodegeneration at a later stage. This is, however, not a general rule and possible epigenetic, molecular and clinical variables are involved. Therefore, there is a need to further discriminate these mechanisms involved in patients.

The aim of the present Research Topic is to provide a deep understanding of the common mechanisms underlying behavioral and cognitive impairments in individuals affected by neuropsychiatric disorders and neurodegenerative diseases throughout their lifetime. Studies can span from Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and neurodevelopmental disorders in youth (e.g. hyperactivity ADHD or children with borderline intellectual functioning (BIF)), to chronic progressive neurodegenerative disorders in old persons (e.g. Frontotemporal dementia, Lewy Body disease, Alzheimer’s disease). To tackle this important question, we aim to collect articles reporting evidence from:
i) Clinical and neuropsychological patterns including rehabilitation evaluation;
ii) Brain imaging studies evaluating neuronal plasticity in patients and its correlation with behavioral and cognitive impairments;
iii) Identified common physiological dysregulations (at the molecular and genetic level) involved in behavioral and cognitive impairments across diseases.
Authors from biomedical and related research fields and disciplines are welcomed to contribute to this collection by submitting Original Research, Review articles, Opinions, and Perspectives stemming from their backgrounds and specialties.


Keywords: Neurodevelopmental disorders, Aging, Biomarkers, Behavioral impairments, Cognitive impairments, Neuronal plasticity


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