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Ageing Res Rev. 2017 Mar;34:64-76. doi: 10.1016/j.arr.2016.11.006. Epub 2016 Nov 16.

Aging of cerebral white matter.

Author information

1
Pittsburgh Institute of Brain Disorders and Recovery, Department of Neurology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA, 15213, USA; Xiangya School of Medicine, Central South University, Changsha, Hunan, China.
2
Pittsburgh Institute of Brain Disorders and Recovery, Department of Neurology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA, 15213, USA.
3
Division of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA, 15282, USA.
4
Pittsburgh Institute of Brain Disorders and Recovery, Department of Neurology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA, 15213, USA; Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center, Veterans Affairs Pittsburgh Health Care System, Pittsburgh, PA 15261, USA. Electronic address: hux2@upmc.edu.

Abstract

White matter (WM) occupies a large volume of the human cerebrum and is mainly composed of myelinated axons and myelin-producing glial cells. The myelinated axons within WM are the structural foundation for efficient neurotransmission between cortical and subcortical areas. Similar to neuron-enriched gray matter areas, WM undergoes a series of changes during the process of aging. WM malfunction can induce serious neurobehavioral and cognitive impairments. Thus, age-related changes in WM may contribute to the functional decline observed in the elderly. In addition, aged WM becomes more susceptible to neurological disorders, such as stroke, traumatic brain injury (TBI), and neurodegeneration. In this review, we summarize the structural and functional alterations of WM in natural aging and speculate on the underlying mechanisms. We also discuss how age-related WM changes influence the progression of various brain disorders, including ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke, TBI, Alzheimer's disease, and Parkinson's disease. Although the physiology of WM is still poorly understood relative to gray matter, WM is a rational therapeutic target for a number of neurological and psychiatric conditions.

KEYWORDS:

Aging; Axon; Myelin; Neurodegeneration; Stroke; Traumatic brain injury; White matter

PMID:
27865980
PMCID:
PMC5250573
DOI:
10.1016/j.arr.2016.11.006
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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