March 24, 2013
Raising Dopamine In Old Brains Improves Decision Making

L-Dopa, a drug used to boost dopamine in brains of Parkinson's patients, boosts brain performance of people in their 70s.

A drug widely used to treat Parkinson's Disease can help to reverse age-related impairments in decision making in some older people, a study from researchers at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging has shown.

The study, published today in the journal Nature Neuroscience, also describes changes in the patterns of brain activity of adults in their seventies that help to explain why they are worse at making decisions than younger people.

Poorer decision-making is a natural part of the ageing process that stems from a decline in our brains' ability to learn from our experiences. Part of the decision-making process involves learning to predict the likelihood of getting a reward from the choices that we make.

An area of the brain called the nucleus accumbens is responsible for interpreting the difference between the reward that we're expecting to get from a decision and the reward that is actually received. These so called 'prediction errors', reported by a brain chemical called dopamine, help us to learn from our actions and modify our behaviour to make better choices the next time.

What I predict from this result: Future stem cell therapies that reverse Parkinson's Disease will also reverse aging in the nucleus accumbens and improve brain performance. Parkinson's Disease is one of many diseases of old age whose cure will necessarily be a rejuvenation therapy.

Dr Rumana Chowdhury, who led the study at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at UCL, said: "We know that dopamine decline is part of the normal aging process so we wanted to see whether it had any effect on reward-based decision making. We found that when we treated older people who were particularly bad at making decisions with a drug that increases dopamine in the brain, their ability to learn from rewards improved to a level comparable to somebody in their twenties and enabled them to make better decisions."

Brain scans show which older brains have more decay in dopamine pathways.

The team then looked at brain activity in the participants as they played the game using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), and measured connections between areas of the brain that are involved in reward prediction using a technique called Diffusor Tensor Imaging (DTI).

The findings reveal that the older adults who performed best in the gambling game before drug treatment had greater integrity of their dopamine pathways. Older adults who performed poorly before drug treatment were not able to adequately signal reward expectation in the brain this was corrected by L-DOPA and their performance improved on the drug.

We need neural stem cell therapies to reverse brain aging. What else would help: gene therapies to fix mitochondrial DNA mutations. Also, stem cell therapies for the vascular system will improve brain circulation and therapies to rejuvenate the immune system will enhance the immune system's ability to carry away the extra-cellular trash that accumulates. Throw in some other gene therapies and cell therapies for glial cells that support neurons and gene or cell therapies to restore deteriorated myelin nerve insulation.

Rejuvenated brains will substantially boost economic activity by making aging brains much more productive.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2013 March 24 09:26 PM 

Abelard Lindsey said at March 25, 2013 1:58 PM:

Rejuvenated brains will substantially boost economic activity by making aging brains much more productive.

No shit, Sherlock!

Yes so many people, even intelligent ones, fail to grasp this simple point.

DdR said at March 26, 2013 10:36 AM:

Deprenyl is your answer: now a generic drug, it was developed to prevent depression. There now exists a plethora of studies indicating its ability to revive old brains.

which extends mammalian life:

I believe that everybody should supplement with deprenyl after the age of 40 to buttress the brain's ever shrinking dopamine levels. I would stick with 5 mg per diem. The stuff's cheap too, but requires a doctor's prescription.

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