Ageing, neuronal connectivity and brain disorders: An unsolved ripple effect

Daniele Bano, Massimiliano Agostini, Gerry Melino, Pierluigi Nicotera

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Cognitive decline associated with ageing and age-related disorders emerges as one of the greatest health challenges in the next decades. To date, the molecular mechanisms underlying the onset of neuronal physiological changes in the central nervous system remain unclear. Functional MRI and PET studies have indicated the decline in working memory performance in older adults. Similarly, age-related disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease, are associated with changes in the prefontral cortex and related neural circuitry, which underlines the decline of integrative function between different brain regions. This is mainly attributed to the loss of synaptic connectivity, which is a feature commonly observed in neurodegenerative disorders. In humans, the morphological and functional changes in neurons, such as reduction of spine numbers and synaptic dysfunction, precede the first signs of cognitive decline and likely contribute to pathology progression. Thus, a new scenario emerges in which apparently unrelated diseases present common features, such as the remodelling of neuronal circuitries promoted by ageing. For many years, ageing was considered a process of slow deterioration triggered by accidental environmental factors. Conversely, it is now evident that ageing is a biological process tightly controlled by evolutionary highly conserved signalling pathways. Importantly, genetic mutations that enhance longevity significantly delay the loss of synaptic connectivity and, therefore, the onset of age-related brain disorders. Accordingly, tweaking ageing might be an attractive approach to prevent cognitive decline caused by age-related synaptic dysfunction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)124-130
Number of pages7
JournalMolecular Neurobiology
Volume43
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2011

Fingerprint

Brain Diseases
Biological Phenomena
Neuronal Plasticity
Short-Term Memory
Age of Onset
Neurodegenerative Diseases
Alzheimer Disease
Spine
Central Nervous System
Magnetic Resonance Imaging
Pathology
Neurons
Mutation
Health
Brain
Cognitive Dysfunction

Keywords

  • Ageing
  • Cognitive decline
  • Dendritic spine
  • MicroRNA
  • Mitochondria
  • Neurodegenerative disorders

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

Cite this

Ageing, neuronal connectivity and brain disorders : An unsolved ripple effect. / Bano, Daniele; Agostini, Massimiliano; Melino, Gerry; Nicotera, Pierluigi.

In: Molecular Neurobiology, Vol. 43, No. 2, 04.2011, p. 124-130.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Bano, Daniele ; Agostini, Massimiliano ; Melino, Gerry ; Nicotera, Pierluigi. / Ageing, neuronal connectivity and brain disorders : An unsolved ripple effect. In: Molecular Neurobiology. 2011 ; Vol. 43, No. 2. pp. 124-130.
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