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Aging and Brain Health and How to Preserve It: What Experts Know So Far

Neurology Advisor

Lizette Borreli

Preserving brain health is integral to longevity, especially in an ever-growing aging population. The population of people aged 65 and older is projected to increase to 80.8 million by 2040 and 94.7 million by 2060.1 With an aging population comes the prevalence of normal age-related forgetfulness, and although cognitive function is believed to decline with age, clinicians and scientists believe the lifelong practice of using cognitive abilities can have a protective effect on brain aging.For a more in-depth look at aging, brain health, and how providers can help their patients preserve it, we spoke with Dr. Small and cognitive neuroscientist Sandra Bond Chapman, PhD, distinguished professor and chief director, Center for BrainHealth, University of Texas at Dallas.Currently, there is no universal definition of “brain health.” How would you define it? Dr. Chapman: "The concept of brain health is captured neither by [intelligence quotient] (IQ) nor by memory tests, nor solely by the absence of diseases or pathology in the brain. In the past, brain, cognitive and mental health assessments were deficit-focused, aimed at detecting disease or disorder rather than strengths or potential. "For the past 3 decades, cognitive neuroscience has been radically changing our understanding of the brain’s lifelong ability to change, adapt and get stronger. We translate the new science to define brain health as making the most of one’s brain capacities to thrive in life. This definition is based on the potential and dynamic capacity of the brain rather than a fixed-in-time set of deficits. This conceptualization accords with the best scientific evidence of the human brain’s immense ability to reshape and reorganize itself in response to experience – neuroplasticity." Read more in Neurology Advisor.

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Sandra Bond Chapman, PhD

Chief Director Dee Wyly Distinguished Professor, School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences Co-Leader, The BrainHealth Project

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