Even in healthy individuals there is an inexorable agerelated decline in cognitive function. This is due, in large part, to reduced synaptic plasticity caused by changes in the molecular composition of the postsynaptic membrane. AMPA receptors (AMPARs) are glutamate-gated cation channels that mediate the overwhelming majority of fast excitatory transmission in the brain. Changes in AMPAR number and/or function are a core feature of synaptic plasticity and age-related cognitive decline, AMPARs are highly dynamic proteins that are subject to highly controlled trafficking, recycling, and/or degradation and replacement. This active regulation of AMPAR synthesis, targeting, synaptic dwell time, and degradation is fundamentally important for memory formation and storage. Further, aberrant AMPAR trafficking and consequent detrimental changes in synapses are strongly implicated in many brain diseases, which represent a vast social and economic burden. The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of the molecular and cellular AMPA receptor trafficking events that control synaptic responsiveness and plasticity, and highlight what is known currently known about how these processes change with age and disease.
AMPA receptor; glutamate receptor; synaptic plasticity; LTP; LTD; protein trafficking; AMPA receptor trafficking
A central tenet of brain aging is that “what is good for the heart is good for the brain.” We examined the combined effect of plasma lipids and APOE genotype on cognitive function in elderly individuals. Plasma concentrations of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), low-density lipoprotein, triglyceride, total cholesterol, and apolipoprotein E (apoE) were evaluated in 622 community-dwelling individuals aged 65 years and older. We investigated the associations between plasma lipids and cognitive function in APOE4 carrier (E4+) and APOE4 noncarrier (E4-) groups using 3-year longitudinal data. At baseline and 3 years later, cognitive scores were correlated with plasma apoE levels in both E4- and E4+, and HDL level in E4-. Our findings suggest that an interaction between apoE and HDL is facilitated by APOE4, and is possibly linked with an enhancement of neuroplasticity and with resultant protective effects on cognitive function in later life. Preservation of higher plasma apoE and HDL from early life is proposed as a possible strategy for maintaining cognitive function in later life, especially for APOE4-positive individuals.
cognitive decline; APOE genotype; apolipoprotein E; high-density lipoprotein; low-density lipoprotein; triglyceride; total cholesterol
Brain plasticity is an intrinsic characteristic of the nervous system that allows continuous remodeling of brain functions in pathophysiological conditions. Although normal aging is associated with morphological modifications and decline of cerebral functions, brain plasticity is at least partially preserved in elderly individuals. A growing body of evidence supports the notion that cognitive enrichment and aerobic training induce a dynamic reorganization of higher cerebral functions, thereby helping to maintain operational skills in the elderly and reducing the incidence of dementia. The stroke model clearly shows that spontaneous brain plasticity exists after a lesion, even in old patients, and that it can be modulated through external factors like rehabilitation and drugs. Whether drugs can be used with the aim of modulating the effects of physical training or cognitive stimulation in healthy aged people has not been addressed until now. The risk:benefit ratio will be the key question with regard to the ethical aspect of this challenge. We review in this article the main aspects of human brain plasticity as shown in patients with stroke, the drug modulation of brain plasticity and its consequences on recovery, and finally we address the question of the influence of aging on brain plasticity.
brain plasticity; aging; stroke; recovery; pharmacology
The human brain shrinks with advancing age, but recent research suggests that it is also capable of remarkable plasticity, even in late life. In this review we summarize the research linking greater amounts of physical activity to less cortical atrophy, better brain function, and enhanced cognitive function, and argue that physical activity takes advantage of the brain's natural capacity for plasticity. Further, although the effects of physical activity on the brain are relatively widespread, there is also some specificity, such that prefrontal and hippocampal areas appear to be more influenced than other areas of the brain. The specificity of these effects, we argue, provides a biological basis for understanding the capacity for physical activity to influence neurocognitive and neuropsychiatric disorders such as depression. We conclude that physical activity is a promising intervention that can influence the endogenous pharmacology of the brain to enhance cognitive and emotional function in late adulthood.
aging; physical activity; exercise; brain; plasticity; neuroplasticity
Is it possible to enhance neural and cognitive function with cognitive training techniques? Can we delay age-related decline in cognitive function with interventions and stave off Alzheimer's disease? Does an aged brain really have the capacity to change in response to stimulation? In the present paper, we consider the neuroplasticity of the aging brain, that is, the brain's ability to increase capacity in response to sustained experience. We argue that, although there is some neural deterioration that occurs with age, the brain has the capacity to increase neural activity and develop neural scaffolding to regulate cognitive function. We suggest that increase in neural volume in response to cognitive training or experience is a clear indicator of change, but that changes in activation in response to cognitive training may be evidence of strategy change rather than indicative of neural plasticity. We note that the effect of cognitive training is surprisingly durable over time, but that the evidence that training effects transfer to other cognitive domains is relatively limited. We review evidence which suggests that engagement in an environment that requires sustained cognitive effort may facilitate cognitive function.
neuroplasticity; scaffolding; cognitive training; cognitive reserve; engagement
Cerebral aging is a complex and heterogenous process related to a large variety of molecular changes involving multiple neuronal networks, due to alterations of neurons (synapses, axons, dendrites, etc), particularly affecting strategically important regions, such as hippocampus and prefrontal areas. A substantial proportion of nondemented, cognitively unimpaired elderly subjects show at least mild to moderate, and rarely even severe, Alzheimer-related lesions, probably representing asymptomatic preclinical Alzheimer's disease, and/or mixed pathologies. While the substrate of resilience to cognitive decline in the presence of abundant pathologies has been unclear, recent research has strengthened the concept of cognitive or brain reserve, based on neuroplasticity or the ability of the brain to manage or counteract age-related changes or pathologies by reorganizing its structure, connections, and functions via complex molecular pathways and mechanisms that are becoming increasingly better understood. Part of neuroplasticity is adult neurogenesis in specific areas of the brain, in particular the hippocampal formation important for memory function, the decline of which is common even in “healthy” aging. To obtain further insights into the mechanisms of brain plasticity and adult neurogenesis, as the basis for prevention and potential therapeutic options, is a major challenge of modern neurosciences.
brain aging; neuropathology; cognitive reserve; structural and functional base; molecular mechanism; neuroplasticity; neurogenesis
Neuroplasticity can be defined as a final common pathway of neurobiological processes, including structural, functional or molecular mechanisms, that result in stability or compensation for age- or disease-related changes. The papers in this issue address the aging process, as well as depression, dementia, and stroke and a range of interventions, including manipulations in behavior (physical and cognitive activity/exercise), physiological factors (caloric restriction, cholesterol), pharmacologic treatments (AMPA receptors) and manipulation of brain magnetic fields and electrical activity (transcranial magnetic stimulation, magnetic seizure therapy, and deep brain stimulation).This editorial will address different facets of neuroplasticity, the need for translational research to interpret neuroimaging data thought to reflect neuroplasticity in the human brain, and the next steps for testing interventions in aging and in disease.
aging; neuroplasticity; deep brain stimulation; neurogenesis
Aging is a physiological process that can develop without the appearance of concurrent diseases. However, very frequently, older people suffer from memory loss and an accelerated cognitive decline. Studies of the neurobiology of aging are beginning to decipher the mechanisms underlying not only the physiology of aging of the brain but also the mechanisms that make people more vulnerable to cognitive dysfunction and neurodegenerative diseases. Today we know that the aging brain retains a considerable functional plasticity, and that this plasticity is positively promoted by genes activated by different lifestyle factors. In this article some of these lifestyle factors and their mechanisms of action are reviewed, including environmental enrichment and the importance of food intake and some nutrients. Aerobic physical exercise and reduction of chronic stress are also briefly reviewed. It is proposed that lifestyle factors are powerful instruments to promote healthy and successful aging of the brain and delay the appearance of age-related cognitive deficits in elderly people.
aging; plasticity; environmental enrichment; caloric restriction; cognitive exercise; physical exercise; stress; corticosterone; lifestyle
The increased risk for neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric disorders associated with extended lifespan has long suggested mechanistic links between chronological age and brain-related disorders, including depression, Recent characterizations of age-dependent gene expression changes now show that aging of the human brain engages a specific set of biological pathways along a continuous lifelong trajectory, and that the same genes that are associated with normal brain aging are also frequently and similarly implicated in depression and other brain-related disorders. These correlative observations suggest a model of age-by-disease molecular interactions, in which brain aging promotes biological changes associated with diseases, and additional environmental factors and genetic variability contribute to defining disease risk or resiliency trajectories. Here we review the characteristic features of brain aging in terms of changes in gene function over time, and then focus on evidence supporting accelerated molecular aging in depression. This proposed age-by-disease biological interaction model addresses the current gap in research between “normal” brain aging and its connection to late-life diseases. The implications of this model are profound, as it provides an investigational framework for identifying critical moderating factors, outlines opportunities for early interventions or preventions, and may form the basis for a dimensional definition of diseases that goes beyond the current categorical system.
brain molecular aging; age; neuroplasticity; depression; psychiatric; neurological disorder
Conceptualizations of the underlying neurobiology of major depression have changed their focus from dysfunctions of neurotransmission to dysfunctions of neurogenesis and neuroprotection. The “neurogenesis hypothesis of depression” posits that changes in the rate of neurogenesis are the underlying mechanism in the pathology and treatment of major depression. Stress, neuroinflammation, dysfunctional insulin regulation, oxidative stress, and alterations in neurotrophic factors possibly contribute to the development of depression. The influence of antidepressant therapies, namely pharmacotherapy and neuroprotectants, on cellular plasticity are summarized. A dysfunction of complex neuronal networks as a consequence of neural degeneration in neuropsychiatric diseases has led to the application of deep brain stimulation. We discuss the way depression seen in the light of the neurogenesis hypothesis can be used as a model disease for cerebral aging. A common pathological mechanism in depression and cerebral aging—a dysfunction of neuroprotection and neurogenesis—is discussed. This has implications for new treatment methods.
depression; cerebral aging; plasticity; neuroprotectant; neurodegeneration; Alzheimer's disease; Parkinson's disease; neuroinflammation; antidepressant therapy; deep brain stimulation; neuroplasticity
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) can be used to probe cortical function and treat neuropsychiatric illnesses. TMS has demonstrated neuroplastic effects akin to long-term potentiation and long-term depression, and therapeutic applications are in development for post-stroke recovery, Alzheimer's disease, and depression in seniors. Here, we discuss two new directions of TMS research relevant to cerebral aging and cognition. First, we introduce a paradigm for enhancing cognitive reserve, based on our research in sleep deprivation. Second, we discuss the use of magnetic seizure therapy (MST) to spare cognitive functions relative to conventional electroconvulsive therapy, and as a means of providing a more potent antidepressant treatment when subconvulsive TMS has shown modest efficacy in seniors. Whether in the enhancement of cognition as a treatment goal, or in the reduction of amnesia as a side effect, these approaches to the use of TMS and MST merit further exploration regarding their clinical potential.
transcranial magnetic stimulation; TMS; magnetic seizure therapy; MST; neuroplasticity; aging; neuroscience
This archival cross-sectional investigation examined the impact of mood, reproductive status (RS), and age on polysomnographic (PSG) measures in women. PSG was performed on 73 normal controls (NC) and 64 depressed patients (DP), in the course of studies in menstruating, pregnant, postpartum, and peri- and postmenopausal women. A two-factor, between-subjects multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) was used to test the main effects of reproductive status (RS: menstrual vs pregnant vs postpartum vs menopausal) and diagnosis (NC vs DP), and their interaction, on PSG measures. To further refine the analyses, a two-factor, between subjects MANOVA was used to test the main effects of age (19 to 27 vs 28 to 36 vs 37 to 45 vs 46+ years) and diagnosis on the PSG data. Analyses revealed that in DP women, rapid eye movement (REM) sleep percentage was significantly elevated relative to NC across both RS and age. Significant differences in sleep efficiency, Stage 1%, and REM density were associated with RS; differences in total sleep time, Stage 2 percentage, and Stage 4 percentage were associated with differences in age. Both RS and age were related to differences in sleep latency, Stage 3 percentage, and Delta percentage. Finally, wake after sleep onset time, REM percentage, and REM latency did not vary with respect to RS or age. Overall, this investigation examined three major variables (mood, RS, and age) that are known to impact sleep in women. Of the variables, age appeared to have the greatest impact on PSG sleep measures, reflecting changes occurring across the lifespan.
polysomnography (PSG); reproductive status; depression; aging; sleep quality
Time estimation, within a range of seconds, involves cognitive functions which depend on multiple brain regions. Here we report on studies investigating the reproduction and production of three durations (5, 14, and 38 seconds) in four groups of patients. The amnesic patient underproduced the length of the long durations because of episodic memory deficit following bilateral medial temporal lesions. Epileptic patients (n = 9) with right medial temporal lobe resections underproduced the three durations because of a distorted representation of time in long-term memory. Traumatic brain injury patients (n = 15) made more variable duration productions and reproductions because of working memory deficits following frontal-lobe dysfunction. Patients with Parkinson's disease (n = 18) overproduced the short duration and underproduced the long duration because of a possible increase in internal clock speed following levodopa treatment, as well as working memory deficits associated with frontal-lobe damage. Further research, in neurological and psychiatric patients, is required to better understand the underlying mechanisms of time estimation.
brain-damaged patient; time estimation; duration reproduction; duration production; memory
Biological functions occur at many different frequencies, and each has its healthy and pathological ranges, patterns, and properties. Physiology, biochemistry, and behavior are not only organized at the morphological level in cells and organs, but separated or coordinated in time for minimal interference and optimal function. One of the most important temporal frameworks is that of the 24-hour day-night cycle, and its change in day length with season. Robust circadian rhythms are important for mental and physical well-being. Though rhythms have been long neglected as irrelevant (in spite of the high prevalence of sleep disorders in nearly every psychiatric illness), we now have tools to document rhythm disruption and, through better understanding of underlying molecular and physiological mechanisms, to develop therapeutic applications. Light as the major synchronizing agent of the biological clock is becoming a treatment option not only for winter depression but other, nonseasonal forms, as well as an adjunct in optimizing sleep-wake cycles, daytime alertness, cognition, and mood in many neuropsychiatric illnesses. Melatonin is the signal of darkness and promotes sleep onset. Manipulation of sleep (wake therapy, phase advance) has yielded the most rapid, nonpharmacological antidepressant effect known, and combinations (with light, medication) provide long-lasting response. Thus, by analogy, new molecules to augment synchronization or mimic changes occuring during night-time wakefulness may yield novel treatments. This issue on biological rhythms contains articles on a variety of different frequencies not included in the usual definition of chronobiology, but which open up interesting approaches to time and illness.
Time has long been a major topic of study in social science, as in other sciences or in philosophy. Social scientists have tended to focus on collective representations of time, and on the ways in which these representations shape our everyday experiences. This contribution addresses work from such disciplines as anthropology, sociology and history. It focuses on several of the main theories that have preoccupied specialists in social science, such as the alleged “acceleration” of life and overgrowth of the present in contemporary Western societies, or the distinction between so-called linear and circular conceptions of time. The presentation of these theories is accompanied by some of the critiques they have provoked, in order to enable the reader to form her or his own opinion of them.
time; collective representation; social science; social time; linear vs circular time; acceleration society; presentism
In the past 30 years the concern that daily exposure to extremely low-frequency magnetic fields (ELF-EMF) (1 to 300 Hz) might be harmful to human health (cancer, neurobehavioral disturbances, etc) has been the object of debate, and has become a public health concern. This has resulted in the classification of ELF-EMF into category 2B, ie, agents that are “possibly carcinogenic to humans” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Since melatonin, a neurohormone secreted by the pineal gland, has been shown to possess oncostatic properties, a “melatonin hypothesis” has been raised, stating that exposure to EMF might decrease melatonin production and therefore might promote the development of breast cancer in humans. Data from the literature reviewed here are contradictory. In addition, we have demonstrated a lack of effect of ELF-EMF on melatonin secretion in humans exposed to EMF (up to 20 years' exposure) which rebuts the melatonin hypothesis. Currently, the debate concerns the effects of ELF-EMF on the risk of childhood leukemia in children chronically exposed to more than 0.4 μT. Further research is thus needed to obtain more definite answers regarding the potential deleterious effects of ELF-EMF.
magnetic field; cortisol; melatonin; circadian rhythm; environment; cancer; neurobehavioral disturbances; marker rhythm; rhythm desynchronization; chronodisruption
Chronotherapeutics refers to treatments based on the principles of circadian rhythm organization and sleep physiology, which control the exposure to environmental stimuli that act on biological rhythms, in order to achieve therapeutic effects in the treatment of psychiatric conditions. It includes manipulations of the sleep-wake cycle such as sleep deprivation and sleep phase advance, and controlled exposure to light and dark. The antidepressant effects of chronotherapeutics are evident in difficult-to-treat conditions such as bipolar depression, which has been associated with extremely low success rates of antidepressant drugs in naturalistic settings and with stable antidepressant response to chronotherapeutics in more than half of the patients. Recent advances in the study of the effects of chronotherapeutics on neurotransmitter systems, and on the biological clock machinery, allow us to pinpoint its mechanism of action and to transform it from a neglected or “orphan” treatment to a powerful clinical instrument in everyday psychiatric practice.
bipolar disorder; antidepressant; sleep deprivation; light therapy; sleep phase advance; dawn simulation; serotonin; glutamate; dopamine; noradrenaline
Diogenes syndrome (DS) is a behavioral disorder of the elderly. Symptoms include living in extreme squalor, a neglected physical state, and unhygienic conditions. This is accompanied by a self-imposed isolation, the refusal of external help, and a tendency to accumulate unusual objects. To explore the phenomenon of DS in dementia we searched for the terms: “Diogenes syndrome, self-neglect, dementia. ” It has long been understood that individuals with dementia often become shut-ins, living in squalor, in the Eastern Baltimore study, dementia was present in 15% of the elderly cases with moderate and severe social breakdown syndrome; twice as many as in the general population of the same age group. Researchers have underlined the frequent presence of DS (36%) in frontotemporal dementia (FTD): different neuropsychological modifications in FTD may contribute to symptoms of DS. The initial treatment should be a behavioral program, but there is not sufficient information regarding pharmacological treatment of the syndrome.
Diogenes syndrome; dementia; self-neglect
The perpetual activity of the cerebral cortex is largely supported by the variety of oscillations the brain generates, spanning a number of frequencies and anatomical locations, as well as behavioral correlates. First, we review findings from animal studies showing that most forms of brain rhythms are inhibition-based, producing rhythmic volleys of inhibitory inputs to principal cell populations, thereby providing alternating temporal windows of relatively reduced and enhanced excitability in neuronal networks. These inhibition-based mechanisms offer natural temporal frames to group or “chunk” neuronal activity into cell assemblies and sequences of assemblies, with more complex multi-oscillation interactions creating syntactical rules for the effective exchange of information among cortical networks. We then review recent studies in human psychiatric patients demonstrating a variety alterations in neural oscillations across all major psychiatric diseases, and suggest possible future research directions and treatment approaches based on the fundamental properties of brain rhythms.
brain; oscillation; neuron; coding; action potential; assembly; psychiatry
We are unable, using our five senses, to feel time, nor, using our intelligence, to define it, because we stand inexorably within time. We achieve a representation of time through evaluation of changes in ourselves and in our environment. This is made possible by memory functions. What if time only existed as a construct in our minds, and what if the absence of this construct made our mode of thinking uncomfortable to us? If our two major tools for constructing our world, feeling and reasoning, are of little help, then the study of time, ie, chronology, might exist as a list of scientific hypotheses, and remain, to some extent, a philosophical question—an enigma that has been approached by thinkers for more than two millenia. In this review, various fields of knowledge are discussed in relation to time, from philosophy and physics to psychology and biology. We discuss the differences between Chronos and Tempus, respectively the time of physicists and that of psychologists.
time; duration; temporal phenomenon; philosophy; psychology; physics
Environmental light synchronizes the primary mammalian biological clock in the suprachiasmatic nuclei, as well as many peripheral clocks in tissues and cells, to the solar 24-hour day. Light is the strongest synchronizing agent (zeitgeber) for the circadian system, and therefore keeps most biological and psychological rhythms internally synchronized, which is important for optimum function. Circadian sleep-wake disruptions and chronic circadian misalignment, as often observed in psychiatric and neurodegenerative illness, can be treated with light therapy. The beneficial effect on circadian synchronization, sleep quality, mood, and cognitive performance depends on timing, intensity, and spectral composition of light exposure. Tailoring and optimizing indoor lighting conditions may be an approach to improve wellbeing, alertness, and cognitive performance and, in the long term, producing health benefits.
circadian rhythm; daylight; bright light; indoor lighting; zeitgeber; entrainment; intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cell (ipRGC); light therapy; circadian rhythm sleep disorder; affective disorder
Integration of several approaches concerning time and temporality can enhance the pathophysiological study of major mood disorders of unknown etiology. We propose that these conditions might be interpreted as disturbances of temporal profile of biological rhythms, as well as alterations of time-consciousness. Useful approaches to study time and temporality include philological suggestions, phenomenological and psychopathological conceptualizatíons, clinical descriptions, and research on circadian and ultradían rhythms, as well as nonlinear dynamics approaches to their analysis.
major depression; bipolar disorder; circadian rhythm; locomotor activity; nonlinear dynamics
This editorial discusses the importance of autism research, noting areas of progress and ongoing challenges and focusing on studies of the etiology, pathophysiology, and treatment of autism spectrum disorders.
Since Kanner's classic description of the syndrome of early infantile autism in 1943, conceptions of the disorder have evolved while retaining important continuity with what Kanner viewed as the hallmarks of the condition—social impairment (autism) and difficulties in dealing with change in the nonsocial world (insistence on sameness). This paper reviews the history of this evolution and the important potential advantages and disadvantages of changes being contemplated for DSM-5. The convergence of diagnostic approach in DSM-IV and ICD-10 provided a shared system that fostered a tremendous body of research. The changes proposed in DSM-5 may impact both research comparability and service eligibility.
autism; diagnosis; DSM-5
In this review, we outline critical molecular processes that have been implicated by discovery of genetic mutations in autism. These mechanisms need to be mapped onto the neurodevelopment step(s) gone awry that may be associated with cause in autism. Molecular mechanisms include: (i) regulation of gene expression; (ii) pre-mRNA splicing; (iii) protein localization, translation, and turnover; (iv) synaptic transmission; (v) cell signaling; (vi) the functions of cytoskeletal and scaffolding proteins; and (vii) the function of neuronal cell adhesion molecules. While the molecular mechanisms appear broad, they may converge on only one of a few steps during neurodevelopment that perturbs the structure, function, and/or plasticity of neuronal circuitry. While there are many genetic mutations involved, novel treatments may need to target only one of few developmental mechanisms.
autism; brain development; regulation of gene expression; synaptic transmission; cell signaling; neuronal cell adhesion molecule