News Release

The brain from early to late life: New research from SfN journals

Effective brain connectivity impacts outcomes from early childhood to successful aging

Reports and Proceedings

Society for Neuroscience

SAN DIEGO, CA — A press conference featuring unpublished research from SfN journals eNeuro and the Journal of Neuroscience will take place Monday, November 14, 2022, at 10:15 a.m. PST.

Brain Mechanisms Underlying Successful Aging
Björn Schott and Joram Soch,,, German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases Göttingen; with Anni Richter, LIN Magdeburg

Although human memory performance usually declines with age, some older adults exhibit “successful aging,” that is memory performance comparable to that of young adults. To examine this phenomenon, researchers assessed chronological age and memory performance in older adults using structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Chronological age was best predicted by brain gray matter volume measured with structural MRI, while memory performance was best predicted from functional MRI completed during visual memory tasks. The results suggest that superior memory performance in healthy older adults may be better explained by efficient use of brain networks (the cognitive reserve hypothesis) than by preserved integrity of brain structure (the brain maintenance hypothesis).

Paper title: Structural and functional MRI data differentially predict chronological age and behavioral memory performance (eNeuro)

Early Life Stress and Brain Connectivity in Preterm Infants
Martijn van den Heuvel,, Vrije University Amsterdam, and Femke Lammertink,, University Medical Center Utrecht

Stressful experiences early in life can have lasting adverse effects on the developing brain. In a new study, researchers assessed how postnatal stress — such as invasive medical procedures — affects the development of structural pathways between brain regions in preterm infants. Infants exposed to higher stress levels were slower to develop neural connections, showing sparser brain networks. Resilience — defined as achieving a positive outcome despite adversity — was associated with a higher degree of connectivity in brain areas involved in controlling emotions and stress, including the hippocampus and amygdala. These findings suggest that the neonatal connectome is vulnerable to postnatal stress, but also highlight the relative plasticity of the preterm brain.

Paper title: Vulnerability of the neonatal connectome following postnatal stress (JNeurosci)

Effects of Early Childhood Deprivation on Brain Persist Into Young Adulthood
Edmund Barke and Nuria Mackes,,, King’s College London

A study of young adult adoptees who experienced severe neglect in Romanian orphanages as children supports the idea that early life adversity can have persistent effects on brain development into adulthood. Researchers used diffusion tensor imaging to investigate white matter volume and microstructure, which are important for efficient communication between brain regions. More than 20 years after the adoptees had left the institutions, their brains still displayed lower white matter volume across multiple and widely located tracts compared with young adult adoptees who did not experience neglect, suggesting that effects of early life deprivation can persist into young adulthood. White matter microstructure, however, appeared either unaffected or normalized by the time the participants reached adulthood.

Paper title: A prospective study of the impact of severe childhood deprivation on brain white matter in adult adoptees: Widespread localized reductions in volume but unaffected microstructural organization (eNeuro)

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