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Understanding the aging brain

May 27, 2016

Understanding how our brains change as we age, and the events that may contribute to the onset of dementia and other disorders has been a longstanding challenge in the field of neuroscience. In collaboration with researchers at UW Medicine and Group Health, the Allen Institute for Brain Science has released a new online resource on Aging, Dementia and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). This one of a kind resource collects and shares a wide variety of data modalities on a large sample of aged brains, complete with mental health histories and clinical diagnoses.

undefined“The power of this resource is its ability to look across such a large number of brains, as well as a large number of data types,” says Ed Lein, Ph.D., Investigator at the Allen Institute for Brain Science. “The resource combines traditional neuropathology with modern ‘omics’ approaches to enable researchers to understand the process of aging, look for molecular signatures of disease and identify hallmarks of brain injury.”

The study samples come from the Adult Changes in Thought (ACT) study, a longitudinal research effort led by Dr. Eric B. Larson and Dr. Paul K. Crane of the Group Health Research Institute and the University of Washington to collect data on thousands of aging adults, including detailed information on their health histories and cognitive abilities. UW Medicine led efforts to collect post-mortem samples from 107 brains aged 79 to 102, with tissue collected from the parietal cortex, temporal cortex, hippocampus and cortical white matter.

"This collaborative research project aims to answer one of the most perplexing problems in clinical neuroscience,” says Dr. Richard G. Ellenbogen, UW Chair and Professor, Department of Neurological Surgery. “If a person suffers a traumatic brain injury during his or her lifetime, what is the risk of developing dementia? We simply don’t know the answer at this time, but some of the answers might be found in this comprehensive dataset by people asking the right kind of questions. This issue is important because of the inherent risk for everyone who plays sports, exercises or in general, participates in the activities of daily life.”

The Aging, Dementia and TBI resource is part of the suite of publicly available tools at brain-map.org.

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