Microglia and modifiable life factors: Potential contributions to cognitive resilience in aging

Behav Brain Res. 2021 May 7:405:113207. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2021.113207. Epub 2021 Feb 25.


Given the increasing prevalence of age-related cognitive decline, it is relevant to consider the factors and mechanisms that might facilitate an individual's resiliency to such deficits. Growing evidence suggests a preeminent role of microglia, the prime mediator of innate immunity within the central nervous system. Human and animal investigations suggest aberrant microglial functioning and neuroinflammation are not only characteristic of the aged brain, but also might contribute to age-related dementia and Alzheimer's Disease. Conversely, accumulating data suggest that modifiable lifestyle factors (MLFs), such as healthy diet, exercise and cognitive engagement, can reliably afford cognitive benefits by potentially suppressing inflammation in the aging brain. The present review highlights recent advances in our understanding of the role for microglia in maintaining brain homeostasis and cognitive functioning in aging. Moreover, we propose an integrated, mechanistic model that postulates an individual's resiliency to cognitive decline afforded by MLFs might be mediated by the mitigation of aberrant microglia activation in aging, and subsequent suppression of neuroinflammation.

Keywords: Cognitive aging; Cognitive enrichment; Diet; Exercise; Microglia; Neuroinflammation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cognitive Aging / physiology*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / immunology*
  • Dementia / immunology*
  • Diet*
  • Exercise*
  • Humans
  • Life Style*
  • Microglia / immunology*
  • Neuroinflammatory Diseases / immunology*