In a new study, researchers from the University of Edinburgh have color-coded different types of molecules in brain cells to feature the range of electrical synapses in mouse brains starting from birth up to old age.
The authors of the study say that their paper is the first of such kind to use the approach to understanding the biology of aging. In the study, the scientists discovered that the molecular composition and number of synapses alters with age in various parts of the brain.
Furthermore, the change happens in three essential phases, namely childhood, middle-age, and elderly age. In the findings, figures from middle-aged brains burst with color, indicating an immense assortment of synapses. On the other hand, infantile and ancient minds have shown less complexity and synapses.
According to the researchers of the study, their findings could give significant inputs as to why genes cause injuries to synapses in set areas of the brain and at set ages. Moreover, they say it could also aid in deciphering why some people are more likely to develop brain conditions at certain ages. For example, it could shed light on why schizophrenia starts in adolescence and why dementia influences the elderly.
The full findings of the study were published in the journal Science on June 11, 2020. Additionally, the research was funded by Wellcome and the European Research Council.
What are Synapses?
According to Khan Academy, synapses are junctions at which neurons communicate with each other. At this conjunction, one neuron sends either an electrical or chemical message to another cell or target neuron.
Most synapses are chemical, wherein they use chemical messengers, while others are electrical, wherein ions flow straight to other cells. At a chemical synapse, a presynaptic neuron becomes triggered by an action potential to give off neurotransmitters.
These molecules then bind to receptors found on the postsynaptic cell and make it less likely to give off an action potential. Furthermore, synapses can store memories. Statistics say that more than 130 brain diseases are linked to synapse damage.
With age, the type of synapse changes into patterns which are uncommon to some areas of the brain. This reaction could significantly bring about a diverse arrangement during a person's midlife.
What is the Cellular Clock Theory of Ageing?
According to Candela's Lumen Learning, the theory of cellular clock aging suggests that biological maturity is caused by healthy cells not being able to divide indefinitely.
When we are young, senescent cells could reduce our risk of serious diseases such as cancer. However, as the body ages, they increase the risk of such problems, the National Institute of Aging says. Understanding why cellular senescence shifts from being beneficial to being damaging is still under investigation. However, experts believe that the answer may lead to some vital clues about the ageing process.
Finally, Professor Seth Grant of the Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences at the University of Edinburgh, the lead researcher of the study concludes that they believe their findings would significantly contribute to the understanding of how the brain is susceptible to disease during the different stages of life. Furthermore, it could also help many understand how the brain cells change during the ageing process.