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Alzheimer's disease and natural cognitive aging may represent adaptive metabolism reduction programs

Overview of attention for article published in Behavioral and Brain Functions, February 2009
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Alzheimer's disease and natural cognitive aging may represent adaptive metabolism reduction programs
Published in
Behavioral and Brain Functions, February 2009
DOI 10.1186/1744-9081-5-13
Pubmed ID

The present article examines several lines of converging evidence suggesting that the slow and insidious brain changes that accumulate over the lifespan, resulting in both natural cognitive aging and Alzheimer's disease (AD), represent a metabolism reduction program. A number of such adaptive programs are known to accompany aging and are thought to have decreased energy requirements for ancestral hunter-gatherers in their 30s, 40s and 50s. Foraging ability in modern hunter-gatherers declines rapidly, more than a decade before the average terminal age of 55 years. Given this, the human brain would have been a tremendous metabolic liability that must have been advantageously tempered by the early cellular and molecular changes of AD which begin to accumulate in all humans during early adulthood. Before the recent lengthening of life span, individuals in the ancestral environment died well before this metabolism reduction program resulted in clinical AD, thus there was never any selective pressure to keep adaptive changes from progressing to a maladaptive extent.Aging foragers may not have needed the same cognitive capacities as their younger counterparts because of the benefits of accumulated learning and life experience. It is known that during both childhood and adulthood metabolic rate in the brain decreases linearly with age. This trend is thought to reflect the fact that children have more to learn. AD "pathology" may be a natural continuation of this trend. It is characterized by decreasing cerebral metabolism, selective elimination of synapses and reliance on accumulating knowledge (especially implicit and procedural) over raw brain power (working memory). Over decades of subsistence, the behaviors of aging foragers became routinized, their motor movements automated and their expertise ingrained to a point where they no longer necessitated the first-rate working memory they possessed when younger and learning actively. Alzheimer changes selectively and precisely mediate an adaptation to this major life-history transition.AD symptomatology shares close similarities with deprivation syndromes in other animals including the starvation response. Both molecular and anatomical features of AD imitate brain changes that have been conceptualized as adaptive responses to low food availability in mammals and birds. Alzheimer's patients are known to express low overall metabolic rates and are genetically inclined to exhibit physiologically thrifty traits widely thought to allow mammals to subsist under conditions of nutritional scarcity. Additionally, AD is examined here in the contexts of anthropology, comparative neuroscience, evolutionary medicine, expertise, gerontology, neural Darwinism, neuroecology and the thrifty genotype.

Mendeley readers

The data shown below were compiled from readership statistics for 84 Mendeley readers of this research output. Click here to see the associated Mendeley record.

Geographical breakdown

Country Count As %
France 1 1%
Australia 1 1%
South Africa 1 1%
United Kingdom 1 1%
United States 1 1%
Unknown 79 94%

Demographic breakdown

Readers by professional status Count As %
Student > Ph. D. Student 16 19%
Researcher 13 15%
Student > Bachelor 11 13%
Student > Doctoral Student 9 11%
Professor > Associate Professor 6 7%
Other 19 23%
Unknown 10 12%
Readers by discipline Count As %
Medicine and Dentistry 16 19%
Agricultural and Biological Sciences 14 17%
Psychology 12 14%
Neuroscience 7 8%
Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology 5 6%
Other 16 19%
Unknown 14 17%

Attention Score in Context

This research output has an Altmetric Attention Score of 1. This is our high-level measure of the quality and quantity of online attention that it has received. This Attention Score, as well as the ranking and number of research outputs shown below, was calculated when the research output was last mentioned on 05 July 2013.
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