Dendritic spine changes associated with normal aging

Neuroscience. 2013 Oct 22;251:21-32. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2012.09.077. Epub 2012 Oct 13.


Given the rapid rate of population aging and the increased incidence of cognitive decline and neurodegenerative diseases with advanced age, it is important to ascertain the determinants that result in cognitive impairment. It is also important to note that much of the aged population exhibit 'successful' cognitive aging, in which cognitive impairment is minimal. One main goal of normal aging studies is to distinguish the neural changes that occur in unsuccessful (functionally impaired) subjects from those of successful (functionally unimpaired) subjects. In this review, we present some of the structural adaptations that neurons and spines undergo throughout normal aging and discuss their likely contributions to electrophysiological properties and cognition. Structural changes of neurons and dendritic spines during aging, and the functional consequences of such changes, remain poorly understood. Elucidating the structural and functional synaptic age-related changes that lead to cognitive impairment may lead to the development of drug treatments that can restore or protect neural circuits and mediate cognition and successful aging.

Keywords: ChAT; DG; DNMS; DRST; GluR; HCN; N-methyl-d-aspartate; NMDA; OVX; PFC; PKC; PSCs; SAMP; aging; cAMP; choline acetyltransferase; cognition; cyclic-AMP; delayed non-matching-to-sample; delayed recognition span test; dendritic spines; dentate gyrus; electrophysiology; glutamate receptors; hyperpolarization-activated cyclic nucleotide-gated; morphology; ovariectomized; postsynaptic currents; prefrontal cortex; protein kinase C; senescence-prone strains.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aging*
  • Animals
  • Brain / cytology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Dendritic Spines / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Neuronal Plasticity
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / physiology