The capacity of brain cells to change is referred to as "plasticity” and according to a new study a decline in plasticity is associated with sensory and cognitive decline from the process of normal brain aging.
Now, scientists at MIT's Picower Institute for Learning and memory showed that inhibitory interneurons in the visual cortex of mice remained equally abundant during aging however, their arbors are more simplified and less dynamic.
Fortunately, the research study published in the Journal of Neuroscience explains that a significant degree of plasticity loss in mice was restored eventually using an antidepressant drug. The antidepressant drug is very common and known as “Prozac”.
Antidepressants work to ameliorate the age-related decline in the structural and functional plasticity of the visual cortex neurons. Despite common belief, loss of neurons due to cell death is quite limited during normal aging and unlikely to account for age-related functional impairments," the scientists explained including lead author of the study, Ronen Eavri. "Rather it seems that structural alterations in neuronal morphology and synaptic connections are features most consistently correlated with brain age, and may be considered as the potential physical basis for the age-related decline.
"Our finding that fluoxetine treatment in aging mice can attenuate the concurrent age-related declines in interneuron structural and visual cortex functional plasticity suggests it could provide an important therapeutic approach towards mitigation of sensory and cognitive deficits associated with aging, provided it is initiated before severe network deterioration.”
Source: Picower Institute at MIT