How the developing brain impacts overall wellness

How the developing brain impacts overall wellness

New research published in the journal JAMA Neurology on March 26 reveals that people born in the 1970s have experienced a 6.6% increase in brain volume compared to the 1930s generation. This increase in brain size is believed to help reduce the risk of dementia in old age. The study, conducted by a team of experts who reviewed brain MRI images from 3,226 participants in the Framingham Heart Study, suggests that brain growth is a result of improving early-life environmental factors.

The Framingham Heart Study, launched in 1948 in Massachusetts, includes participants born in every decade since the 1930s. The research team compared the brains of individuals born in the 1930s with those born in the 1970s by analyzing MRI images taken from 1999-2019. They found that the average brain volume increased from 1,234 ml to 1,321 ml over this 40-year period, with the cortical surface area of those born in the 1970s being nearly 15% larger.

Neuroscientist Charles DeCarli, a study author, noted that genetics play a role in determining brain size, but external factors such as health, social, cultural, and educational influences can also impact brain development. The team believes that larger brain volume may indicate better brain preservation and development, leading to improved brain health and potentially lower risk of dementia in old age.

The study also found that the size of the hippocampus, a brain region involved in memory and learning, has been increasing with each decade. This, along with the increase in white and gray matter in the brain, suggests improved brain development and health in individuals born in later decades. While more research is needed to understand the exact impact of increased brain size on long-term health, the findings offer promising insights into the connection between brain size and cognitive health.

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