Bigger Brains, Lower Dementia Risk? UC Davis Study Suggests Hope for Younger Generations

By: | April 5th, 2024

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A recent study by researchers at UC Davis Health suggests that human brains are growing larger. They propose that this larger brain size may increase brain reserve, potentially reducing the risk of age-related dementias. The study elucidates how this trend impacts our susceptibility to dementia, notably Alzheimer’s disease.

Exploring Brain Size Variation Across Decades

Research indicates a fascinating trend: younger generations may have a decreased risk of dementia due to larger brain size. Published in the journal JAMA Neurology, the study analyzed brain scans of over 3,000 Americans aged 55-65. It found that those born in the 1970s (Generation X) had an average brain volume 6.6% larger than those born in the 1930s (Silent Generation).

This increase was observed in specific brain regions as well, with Gen X showing a nearly 8% greater volume of white matter and a 15% increase in gray matter surface area. The hippocampus, crucial for memory and learning, expanded by 5.7% in volume compared to the previous generation.

The researchers believe this growth might be linked to external factors like improved nutrition, healthcare, and education. Lead researcher Charles DeCarli suggests that a larger brain could act as a “reserve” against age-related brain diseases like Alzheimer’s. While genetics play a role in brain size, this study highlights the potential impact of environmental influences on brain health.

It’s important to note that this is a preliminary finding, and more research is needed to confirm the link between brain size and dementia risk. However, these results offer a promising outlook for younger generations in terms of cognitive health later in life.

Nidhi Goyal

Nidhi is a gold medalist Post Graduate in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

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