In an article published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team of researchers argues that our longer lifespan is a result of the fact that we have developed bigger brains.
The study shows that old age has evolved to help meet the demands of raising children more intelligent.
As we age, our brain becomes lighter. Around the age of 80, the human brain has lost up to 15% of its original weight.
In parallel, the brain’s ability to process thoughts, memories and respond to signals from the body seems to diminish.
Researchers argue that certain areas of the brain seem to devolve faster than others. The cerebral cortex, which is involved in higher cognitive levels of thinking, shrinks more than the cerebellum, which is responsible for regulating movement.
Despite the universal phenomenon of aging, researchers have failed to find out why our brain loses the gray matter with age.
Strangely, monkey brain is not subject to the loss of gray matter, which is why scientists are considering the hypothesis that this feature might be found only in humans.
A team of neurologists, anthropologists and primatologists collected data to find the answer.
Comparing magnetic resonance images obtained from more than 80 people aged between 22 and 88 with those of a similar number of captive chimpanzees, researchers have found that the animal’ brain doesn’t decrease with age.