Nav: Home

'Harmless' condition shown to alter brain function in elderly

August 13, 2012

OAK BROOK, Ill. - Researchers at the Mayo Clinic say a common condition called leukoaraiosis, made up of tiny areas in the brain that have been deprived of oxygen and appear as bright white dots on MRI scans, is not a harmless part of the aging process, but rather a disease that alters brain function in the elderly. Results of their study are published online in the journal Radiology.

"There has been a lot of controversy over these commonly identified abnormalities on MRI scans and their clinical impact," said Kirk M. Welker, M.D., assistant professor of radiology in the College of Medicine at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. "In the past, leukoaraiosis has been considered a benign part of the aging process, like gray hair and wrinkles."

Leukoaraiosis, also called small vessel ischemia and often referred to as unidentified bright objects or "UBOs" on brain scans, is a condition in which diseased blood vessels lead to small areas of damage in the white matter of the brain. The lesions are common in the brains of people over the age of 60, although the amount of disease varies among individuals.

"We know that aging is a risk factor for leukoaraiosis, and we suspect that high blood pressure may also play a role," Dr. Welker said.

Dr. Welker's team performed functional MRI (fMRI) scans on cognitively normal elderly participants recruited from the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging between 2006 and 2010. In 18 participants, the amount of leukoaraiosis was a moderate 25 milliliters, and in 18 age-matched control participants, the amount of disease was less than five milliliters.

The patients were imaged in an MRI scanner as they performed a semantic decision task by identifying word pairs and a visual perception task that involved differentiating straight from diagonal lines. fMRI is a special type of magnetic resonance imaging that measures metabolic changes in an active part of the brain.

Although both groups performed the tasks with similar success, the fMRI scans revealed different brain activation patterns between the two groups. Compared to members of the control group, patients with moderate levels of leukoaraiosis had atypical activation patterns, including decreased activation in areas of the brain involved in language processing during the semantic decision task and increased activation in the visual-spatial areas of the brain during the visual perception task.

"Different systems of the brain respond differently to disease," Dr. Welker explained. "White matter damage affects connections within the brain's language network, which leads to an overall reduction in network activity."

He pointed out that identifying leukoaraiosis in the brain is important, both for individual patients undergoing brain mapping for surgery or other treatments and for research studies.

For improved neurological health, Dr. Welker said efforts should be taken to prevent leukoaraiosis from occurring.

"Our results add to a growing body of evidence that this is a disease we need to pay attention to," he said. "Leukoaraiosis is not a benign manifestation of aging but an important pathologic condition that alters brain function."
-end-
"Altered Functional MR Imaging Language Activation in Elderly Individuals with Cerebral Leukoaraiosis." Collaborating with Dr. Welker were Reordan O. De Jesus, M.D., Robert E. Watson, M.D., Ph.D., Mary M. Machulda, Ph.D., and Clifford R. Jack, M.D.

Radiology is edited by Herbert Y. Kressel, M.D., Harvard Medical School, Boston, Mass., and owned and published by the Radiological Society of North America, Inc. (http://radiology.rsna.org/)

RSNA is an association of more than 48,000 radiologists, radiation oncologists, medical physicists and related scientists committed to excellence in patient care through education and research. The Society is based in Oak Brook, Ill. (RSNA.org)

For patient-friendly information on fMRI, visit RadiologyInfo.org.

Radiological Society of North America

Related Aging Articles:

Brain development and aging
The brain is a complex organ -- a network of nerve cells, or neurons, producing thought, memory, action, and feeling.
Aging gracefully in the rainforest
In an article that appears in the current issue of Evolutionary Anthropology, researchers synthesize over 15 years of theoretical and empirical findings from long-term study of the Tsimane forager-farmers.
Reversing aging now possible!
DGIST's research team identified the mechanism of reversible recovery of aging cells by inducing lysosomal activation.
Brain-aging gene discovered
Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center have discovered a common genetic variant that greatly affects normal brain aging in older adults.
Aging can be good for you (if you're a yeast)
It's a cheering thought for anyone heading towards their golden years.
How eating less can slow the aging process
New research shows why calorie restriction made mice live longer and healthier lives.
Turning back the aging clock
By boosting genes that destroy defective mitochondrial DNA, researchers can slow down and potentially reverse an important part of the aging process.
Insilico Medicine launches a deep learned biomarker of aging, Aging.AI 2.0 for testing
Insilico Medicine, Inc., a company applying latest advances in deep learning to biomarker development, drug discovery and aging research, launched Aging.AI 2.0.
Substance with the potential to postpone aging
The coenzyme NAD+ plays a main role in aging processes.
What does a healthy aging cat look like?
Just as improved diet and medical care have resulted in increased life expectancy in humans, advances in nutrition and veterinary care have increased the life span of pet cats.

Related Aging Reading:

Aging: An Apprenticeship
by Nan Narboe (Editor)

Nan Narboe's 56 thoughtfully selected essays offer an intimate and lyrical account of aging through the decades.

Authors Judy Blume, Andrew McCarthy, Gloria Steinem, Donald Hall, David Shields, Ursula K. Le Guin and others draw from their own experiences, describing a specific decade's losses and gains to form a complex and unflinching portrait of the years from nearing fifty to ninety and beyond.

In six sections, these detail-rich essays paint an accessible picture of nearing 50, the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, the 90s and beyond with equal parts humor... View Details


Aging as a Spiritual Practice: A Contemplative Guide to Growing Older and Wiser
by Lewis Richmond (Author)

The bestselling author of Work as a Spiritual Practice presents a user’s life guide to aging well and making every year fulfilling and transformative.

Everything changes. For Zen Buddhist priest and meditation teacher Lewis Richmond, this fundamental Buddhist tenet is the basis for a new inner road map that emerges in the later years, charting an understanding that can bring new possibilities and a wealth of appreciation and gratitude for the life journey itself.

Aging as a Spiritual Practice is a wise, compassionate book that guides readers through the... View Details


The Grace in Aging: Awaken as You Grow Older
by Kathleen Dowling Singh (Author)

Learn to use your later years for awakening and spiritual growth.

Encouraging, inspiring, and practical, The Grace in Aging invites all those who have ever experienced spiritual longing to awaken in their twilight years. Since aging, in and of itself, does not lead to spiritual maturity, The Grace in Aging suggests and explores causes and conditions that we can create in our lives, just as we are living them, to allow awakening to unfold—transforming the predictable sufferings of aging into profound opportunities for growth in clarity, love, compassion, and peace.... View Details


Aging Backwards: Reverse the Aging Process and Look 10 Years Younger in 30 Minutes a Day
by Miranda Esmonde-White (Author)

PBS fitness personality on Classical Stretch and creator of the fitness phenomenon Essentrics, Miranda Esmonde-White offers an eye-opening guide to anti-aging that provides essential tools to help anyone turn back the clock and look and feel younger no matter what age.

Miranda Esmonde-White trains everyone from prima ballerinas to professional hockey players to Cerebral palsy patients: what do they all have in common? All of these people are hoping to heal their bodies, prevent further injury, and move optimally and without pain. In fact, they have... View Details


Holding the Net: Caring for My Mother on the Tightrope of Aging
by Melanie P. Merriman (Author)

In this poignant and timely memoir, Melanie Merriman shares her struggle to care for her fiercely independent aging mother. When her father dies, Melanie commits herself to making the rest of her mother’s life the best it can be. She brings knowledge to the situation―as a hospice consultant, she has studied aging, illness, and the intricacies of the healthcare system―and she has a sister who is willing to help. But even with these advantages, Melanie finds the real-life experience of caring for her mother humbling. Every decision becomes a tug of war, with Mom on one side, fighting... View Details


Aging: The Fulfillment of Life
by Henri J.M. Nouwen (Author), Walter J. Gaffney (Author)

We are all aging. We are each a spoke on the great wheel of life, part of the ongoing cycle of growth. In Aging, Henri J.M. Nouwen and Walter J. Gaffney share some moving and inspirational thoughts on what aging means (and can mean) to all of us, whether we're in our youth, middle age, or later years.

Enhanced by some eighty-five photographs depicting various scenes from life and nature, this book shows how to make the later years a source of hope rather than a time of loneliness -- a way out of darkness into the light. "Aging," the authors write, "is not a reason for... View Details


Healthy Aging: A Lifelong Guide to Your Well-Being
by Andrew Weil M.D. (Author)

A unique book about aging that draws on the science of biogerontology as well as on the secrets of healthy longevity, from the renowned Dr. Andrew Weil.

In each of his widely acclaimed, best-selling books, Dr. Andrew Weil has been an authoritative and companionable guide through a uniquely effective combination of traditional and nontraditional approaches to health and healthy living. Dr. Weil explains that there are a myriad of things we can do to keep our bodies and minds in good working order through all phases of life. Hugely informative, practical, and uplifting, Healthy... View Details


Aging Thoughtfully: Conversations about Retirement, Romance, Wrinkles, and Regret
by Martha C. Nussbaum (Author), Saul Levmore (Author)

We all age differently, but we can learn from shared experiences and insights. The conversations, or paired essays, in Aging Thoughtfully combine a philosopher's approach with a lawyer-economist's.

Here are ideas about when to retire, how to refashion social security to help the elderly poor, how to learn from King Lear -- who did not retire successfully -- and whether to enjoy or criticize anti-aging cosmetic procedures. Some of the concerns are practical: philanthropic decisions, relations with one's children and grandchildren, the purchase of annuities, and how to provide... View Details


Aging Well: Surprising Guideposts to a Happier Life from the Landmark Harvard Study of Adult Development
by George E. Vaillant (Author)

In a unique series of studies, Harvard University has followed 824 subjects from their teens to old age. Professor George Vaillant now uses these to illustrate the surprising factors involved in reaching happy, healthy old age. View Details


Yoga for Healthy Aging: A Guide to Lifelong Well-Being
by Baxter Bell (Author), Nina Zolotow (Author)

The definitive resource on how to use yoga to foster your physical, mental, and emotional health for a lifetime.

Everyone would like to age with as much strength and grace as possible and now numerous studies confirm what many yoga practitioners have known for a long time: yoga practice has a remarkable impact on physical and mental health—and spiritual well-being—as you grow older. Yoga for Healthy Aging is the definitive resource on how to use yoga to foster your physical, mental, and emotional health for a lifetime.

Baxter Bell, MD, and Nina Zolotow,... View Details

Best Science Podcasts 2017

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2017. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Going Undercover
Are deception and secrecy categorically wrong? Or can they be a necessary means to an end? This hour, TED speakers share stories of going undercover to explore unknown territory, and find the truth. Guests include poet and activist Theo E.J. Wilson, journalist Jamie Bartlett, counter-terrorism expert Mubin Shaikh, and educator Shabana Basij-Rasikh.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#452 Face Recognition and Identity
This week we deep dive into the science of how we recognize faces and why some of us are better -- or worse -- at this than others. We talk with Brad Duchaine, Professor of Psychology at Dartmouth College, about both super recognizers and face blindness. And we speak with Matteo Martini, Psychology Lecturer at the University of East London, about a study looking at twins who have difficulty telling which one of them a photo was of. Charity Links: Union of Concerned Scientists Evidence For Democracy Sense About Science American Association for the Advancement of Science Association for Women...