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Curr Opin Psychiatry. 2016 Mar;29(2):159-67. doi: 10.1097/YCO.0000000000000238.

Gene expression in the aging human brain: an overview.

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aCentre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA), School of Psychiatry, UNSW AustraliabNeuropsychiatric Institute, Prince of Wales Hospital, SydneycDiscipline of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia.



The review aims to provide a summary of recent developments in the study of gene expression in the aging human brain.


Profiling differentially expressed genes or 'transcripts' in the human brain over the course of normal aging has provided valuable insights into the biological pathways that appear activated or suppressed in late life. Genes mediating neuroinflammation and immune system activation in particular, show significant age-related upregulation creating a state of vulnerability to neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric disease in the aging brain. Cellular ionic dyshomeostasis and age-related decline in a host of molecular influences on synaptic efficacy may underlie neurocognitive decline in later life. Critically, these investigations have also shed light on the mobilization of protective genetic responses within the aging human brain that help determine health and disease trajectories in older age. There is growing interest in the study of pre and posttranscriptional regulators of gene expression, and the role of noncoding RNAs in particular, as mediators of the phenotypic diversity that characterizes human brain aging.


Gene expression studies in healthy brain aging offer an opportunity to unravel the intricately regulated cellular underpinnings of neurocognitive aging as well as disease risk and resiliency in late life. In doing so, new avenues for early intervention in age-related neurodegenerative disease could be investigated with potentially significant implications for the development of disease-modifying therapies.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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