The ageing cortical synapse: hallmarks and implications for cognitive decline

Nat Rev Neurosci. 2012 Mar 7;13(4):240-50. doi: 10.1038/nrn3200.


Normal ageing is associated with impairments in cognitive function, including memory. These impairments are linked, not to a loss of neurons in the forebrain, but to specific and relatively subtle synaptic alterations in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex. Here, we review studies that have shed light on the cellular and synaptic changes observed in these brain structures during ageing that can be directly related to cognitive decline in young and aged animals. We also discuss the influence of the hormonal status on these age-related alterations and recent progress in the development of therapeutic strategies to limit the impact of ageing on memory and cognition in humans.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Cognition Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Hippocampus / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Synapses / physiology*