How Our Minds May Be Getting Bigger

Unlocking the secrets of Brain growth


4/30/20241 min read

Unlocking the Secrets of Brain Growth: How Our Minds May Be Getting Bigger
Unlocking the Secrets of Brain Growth: How Our Minds May Be Getting Bigger

Recent research suggests that our brains might be expanding over time, which could have profound implications for combating age-related dementia. Scientists at UC Davis Health conducted a study revealing that brains from individuals born in the 1970s exhibited a 6.6% higher volume and 15% greater surface area compared to those born in the 1930s. Published in JAMA Neurology, the study sheds light on potential factors influencing brain size beyond genetics.

Understanding Brain Growth:

Charles DeCarli, the lead author of the study and a distinguished professor of neurology at UC Davis, highlights the role of external influences such as health, social, cultural, and educational factors in determining brain size. By analyzing data from the Framingham Heart Study, a long-term community-based research project, scientists observed a consistent pattern of brain expansion across generations.

Insights from the Study:

Examining MRI scans from individuals born between 1925 and 1968, researchers noted a gradual increase in brain volume and cortical surface area over time. From the 1930s to the 1970s, average brain volume rose from 1,234 to 1,321 millimeters, accompanied by an expansion in cortical surface area. Additionally, they observed growth in gray matter, white matter, and the hippocampus, a region crucial for learning and memory.

The Significance of Brain Growth:

The findings offer hope for reducing the prevalence of age-related dementias like Alzheimer's disease. A larger brain structure, as observed in the study, may indicate improved brain development and health. DeCarli suggests that a larger brain reserve could potentially mitigate the impact of age-related brain diseases by buffering against their effects.

Implications for the Future:

The increase in brain size and structural development represents a promising trend in brain health. By better understanding the factors contributing to brain growth, researchers aim to develop strategies for promoting cognitive resilience and reducing the burden of age-related neurological disorders. Ultimately, these insights may pave the way for novel interventions to support healthy brain aging and enhance cognitive function in later life.