Neurochemical Research

, Volume 32, Issue 12, pp 2023–2031 | Cite as

What’s Behind the Decline? The Role of White Matter in Brain Aging

  • Jason D. Hinman
  • Carmela R. AbrahamEmail author
Original Paper


The specific molecular events that underlie the age-related loss of cognitive function are poorly understood. Although not experimentally substantiated, age-dependent neuronal loss has long been considered central to age-related cognitive decline. More recently, age-related changes in brain white matter have taken precedence in explaining the steady decline in cognitive domains seen in non-diseased elderly. Characteristic alterations in the ultrastructure of myelin coupled with evidence of inflammatory processes present in the white matter of several different species suggest that specific molecular events within brain white matter may better explain observed pathological changes and cognitive deficits. This review focuses on recent evidence highlighting the importance of white matter in deciphering the course of “normal” brain aging.


Age-related cognitive decline Myelin Oligodendrocyte Calpain CNP 



Age-related cognitive decline


Alzheimer’s disease


Parkinson’s disease


Magnetic resonance imaging


Fractional anisotropy


Transverse relaxation rates


Central nervous system


Neurofibrillary tangle


Inducible nitric oxide synthase


Major histocompatibility complex


Complement activated oligodendrocytes


Complement C3a receptor


Peripheral nervous system


Glial acidic fibrillary protein




Myelin basic protein


Proteolipid protein


Myelin-associated glycoprotein


2’,3’ Cyclic nucleotide phosphodiesterase


Myelin oligodendrocyte specific protein


Experimental allergic encephalomyelitis


Multiple sclerosis



The authors thank our fellow collaborators in the Aging Program Project (NIA AG00001) particularly Drs. Peters, Rosene, Moss, Leubke, Hollander, Duce, and Chen.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departments of Biochemistry and MedicineBoston University School of MedicineBostonUSA

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