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Why Does The Brain Shrink Overtime?

Why Does The Brain Shrink Overtime?

Shrinking brains sounds excruciating and extremely terrifying since it has to do with the organ that is responsible for who we are, what we do and how we do it. The brain is irreplaceable, once it’s gone, you are gone; unlike some of the other organs of the body that can be transplanted, you can only use one brain throughout your life and when it shrinks, there is no way you can get it back to the way it was. There is no cure for shrinking brains but there are some things you can do to reduce the risk of your brain from shrinking in the first place, in order to beat this natural abomination, you need to know how it occurs and what happens when it does.

The brain

Human brain is the main organ of the central nervous system which is protected by the skull.

All human brain has the same structure with that of other mammals, but with a more developed cerebral cortex. Human brain has approximately15 to 33 billion neurons in the cerebral cortex, with each neuronconnected by synapses to several thousand other neurons. These neurons communicate through what is called axons.

The cerebral cortex plays a key role in language, memory, consciousness, awareness, thought, attention and perception. It composed of gray matter, consisting mainly of cell bodies and capillaries which contrast with the underlying white matter, consisting mainly of the white myelinated sheaths of neuronal axons.

What is brain shrinkage?

The shrinking of the brain is referred to as cerebral atrophy. Atrophy means a decrement in the size of the cell of a tissue; in the brain, atrophy describes a loss of neurons and the connections between them. The shrinking of the brain can affect the whole brain or may be limited to a particular section of the brain which results in a decrease in the function of that area the brain controls.

Why it occurs

Some brain shrinkage occurs naturally while others are due to diseases, injuries or infections. Naturally, the brain starts to reduce around the age of 25 years which is when the brain as reaches its maximum mass and stop growing, although no significant mass reduction take place until the age of 60 years when about 0.5 to 1 percent of the brain volume is lost per year; the human brain shrinks to about 15 percent of its maximum mass by the age of 75 years. This is because of the progressive loss of cytoplasmic proteins in the brain.

The injuries and diseases that lead to brain shrinkage includes traumatic brain injury, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, cerebral palsy, Pick’s disease, Huntington’s disease, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, leukodystrophies, mitrochondrialencephalomyopathies, type II diabetes, eating disorders and even malnutrition; many diseases that cause cerebral atrophy are associated with seizures, dementia, and aphasias (group of language disorders). The infections that can affect the brain are encephalitis, neurosyphilis and also AIDS.

How to prevent it

Unfortunately, you cannot prevent it from occurring; you can only reduce the risk of having it. This can be done by changing some part of your life: firstly, try to get enough sleep; taking 6 to 8 hours of sleep is not only good for your body but also your brain, it helps to maintain your gray matter. Another way is by eating healthy balanced diet, which must contain antioxidants and omega-3 which makes up the central building blocks of the brain tissue. You can also reduce the risk by staying active physically, mentally and socially.

Brain Growth vs Brain Development

Brain Growth vs Brain Development

Growing brain- The formation of brain cells

Formation of the brain begins as early as 3 weeks after conception, which means the growth of the brain is a continuous process. Almost all the neurons that a person’s brain ever has would be present at the time of birth. As the infant grows, the brain continues to grow a couple of years. By the age of 2, the brain is almost 80% of the size of the adult’s brain. A child’s brain is most impressionable, which means open to learning when compared to an adult’s brain.

Developing brain- Skills and knowledge

If the brain had to grow as we learn everyday, then the topmost scientists would have an enormously huge brain. That’s definitely not possible. When we refer to the growth of the brain beyond the initial years after birth, then we mean the development of the brain in terms of acquiring more knowledge and not growing in size every day.

Learning impacts brain development

Of Course learning has an impact on the development of the brain. Learning is an experience and the brain is activity dependent. The brain is connected by neural circuits which functions amazingly. Every experience excites certain circuits in the brain, leading to the strengthening of those areas. Also the circuits that are not frequently excited wears off in a course of time, which is identified as pruning. Learning impacts the development of the brain in terms of building the knowledge database.

Increased connectivity among neurons

There are different pathways of neurons for different activities. There are also multiple pathways, for example, frequent and stronger thoughts. This increased connectivity among the neurons helps a person to be agile mentally even during old age. There are various studies talking about the stronger and weaker connections of the neurons in the brain. The underlying fact is that increased connectivity among the neurons with greater pathways, is always better.

Brain at work while we sleep

It is a fact that the brain does not stop working while we sleep. The brain works actively while we sleep. The primary activities being the storage of memory and information gathered from the previous day. This justifies why a person with a poor night's sleep the day before examination could do poorly during examination. It hurts the ability to remember new things.

Intelligence vs Brain Size

The size of the human brain is not a measure of intelligence. The learning which helps in the development of the brain also helps a person to be intelligent. Animals like elephants and whales tend to have bigger brains as they have to command a huge body. That does not mean the animals are more intelligent than humans.

Learning can increase your knowledge and not the size of your brain in reality. Be active always and do involve yourself in varied activities to keep your brain connections active. Activity dependent human brains need more excited neurons. Fire them and wire them appropriately!