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How education may stave off cognitive decline

Study identifies genes and molecular pathways that may help keep the brain sharp in old age

Society for Neuroscience

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IMAGE: Figure 1. Outline of the processing of gene expression data from regional probe level to enrichment map for the identification of functionally coherent clusters of gene sets. view more 

Credit: Bartrés-Faz et al., JNeurosci (2019)

Prefrontal brain regions linked to higher educational attainment are characterized by increased expression of genes involved in neurotransmission and immunity, finds a study of healthy older adults published in JNeurosci. The identified genes and molecular pathways could provide insight into factors that help keep the brain sharp in old age.

In their study of 122 Spanish adults, David Bartrés-Faz (University of Barcelona), Michel Grothe (German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases), and colleagues found the medial prefrontal, anterior cingulate, and orbitofrontal cortices - brain regions important for working memory and decision-making - were thicker in individuals who completed 15 years of formal education compared to individuals with fewer years of education. The researchers used data from the Allen Institute Human Brain Atlas to identify enhanced gene expression profiles in these brain regions that promote information processing and clearance of neuronal debris related to neurodegenerative diseases.

In addition to confirming previous associations between educational attainment and cortical thickness, these results provide a direction for future molecular studies of brain health in the elderly.

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Manuscript title: Characterizing the molecular architecture of cortical regions associated with high educational attainment in older individuals

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About JNeurosci

JNeurosci, the Society for Neuroscience's first journal, was launched in 1981 as a means to communicate the findings of the highest quality neuroscience research to the growing field. Today, the journal remains committed to publishing cutting-edge neuroscience that will have an immediate and lasting scientific impact, while responding to authors' changing publishing needs, representing breadth of the field and diversity in authorship.

About The Society for Neuroscience

The Society for Neuroscience is the world's largest organization of scientists and physicians devoted to understanding the brain and nervous system. The nonprofit organization, founded in 1969, now has nearly 37,000 members in more than 90 countries and over 130 chapters worldwide.

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