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Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2013 Mar;15(1):53-65.

Molecular aging of the brain, neuroplasticity, and vulnerability to depression and other brain-related disorders.

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Department of Psychiatry, Center for Neuroscience, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15219, USA.


in English, French, Spanish

The increased risk for neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric disorders associated with extended lifespan has long suggested mechanistic links between chronological age and brain-related disorders, including depression, Recent characterizations of age-dependent gene expression changes now show that aging of the human brain engages a specific set of biological pathways along a continuous lifelong trajectory, and that the same genes that are associated with normal brain aging are also frequently and similarly implicated in depression and other brain-related disorders. These correlative observations suggest a model of age-by-disease molecular interactions, in which brain aging promotes biological changes associated with diseases, and additional environmental factors and genetic variability contribute to defining disease risk or resiliency trajectories. Here we review the characteristic features of brain aging in terms of changes in gene function over time, and then focus on evidence supporting accelerated molecular aging in depression. This proposed age-by-disease biological interaction model addresses the current gap in research between "normal" brain aging and its connection to late-life diseases. The implications of this model are profound, as it provides an investigational framework for identifying critical moderating factors, outlines opportunities for early interventions or preventions, and may form the basis for a dimensional definition of diseases that goes beyond the current categorical system.


age; brain molecular aging; depression; neurological disorder; neuroplasticity; psychiatric

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