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Concept: Aging


Antiaging therapies show promise in model organism research. Translation to humans is needed to address the challenges of an aging global population. Interventions to slow human aging will need to be applied to still-young individuals. However, most human aging research examines older adults, many with chronic disease. As a result, little is known about aging in young humans. We studied aging in 954 young humans, the Dunedin Study birth cohort, tracking multiple biomarkers across three time points spanning their third and fourth decades of life. We developed and validated two methods by which aging can be measured in young adults, one cross-sectional and one longitudinal. Our longitudinal measure allows quantification of the pace of coordinated physiological deterioration across multiple organ systems (e.g., pulmonary, periodontal, cardiovascular, renal, hepatic, and immune function). We applied these methods to assess biological aging in young humans who had not yet developed age-related diseases. Young individuals of the same chronological age varied in their “biological aging” (declining integrity of multiple organ systems). Already, before midlife, individuals who were aging more rapidly were less physically able, showed cognitive decline and brain aging, self-reported worse health, and looked older. Measured biological aging in young adults can be used to identify causes of aging and evaluate rejuvenation therapies.

Concepts: Medicine, Death, Senescence, Biology, Population, Gerontology, Ageing, Aging


Poor diet quality and insufficient nutrient intake is of particular concern among older adults. The Older Americans Act of 1965 authorizes home-delivered meal services to homebound individuals aged 60 years and older.

Concepts: Nutrition, Death, Ageing, Aging, Ageism, Older Americans Act


Older adults frequently complain that while they can hear a person talking, they cannot understand what is being said; this difficulty is exacerbated by background noise. Peripheral hearing loss cannot fully account for this age-related decline in speech-in-noise ability, as declines in central processing also contribute to this problem. Given that musicians have enhanced speech-in-noise perception, we aimed to define the effects of musical experience on subcortical responses to speech and speech-in-noise perception in middle-aged adults. Results reveal that musicians have enhanced neural encoding of speech in quiet and noisy settings. Enhancements include faster neural response timing, higher neural response consistency, more robust encoding of speech harmonics, and greater neural precision. Taken together, we suggest that musical experience provides perceptual benefits in an aging population by strengthening the underlying neural pathways necessary for the accurate representation of important temporal and spectral features of sound.

Concepts: Understanding, Middle age, Sense, Acoustics, Aging, Sound, Hearing, Music


Aim. To estimate and compare asthma prevalence in Africa in 1990, 2000, and 2010 in order to provide information that will help inform the planning of the public health response to the disease. Methods. We conducted a systematic search of Medline, EMBASE, and Global Health for studies on asthma published between 1990 and 2012. We included cross-sectional population based studies providing numerical estimates on the prevalence of asthma. We calculated weighted mean prevalence and applied an epidemiological model linking age with the prevalence of asthma. The UN population figures for Africa for 1990, 2000, and 2010 were used to estimate the cases of asthma, each for the respective year. Results. Our search returned 790 studies. We retained 45 studies that met our selection criteria. In Africa in 1990, we estimated 34.1 million asthma cases (12.1%; 95% confidence interval [CI] 7.2-16.9) among children <15 years, 64.9 million (11.8%; 95% CI 7.9-15.8) among people aged <45 years, and 74.4 million (11.7%; 95% CI 8.2-15.3) in the total population. In 2000, we estimated 41.3 million cases (12.9%; 95% CI 8.7-17.0) among children <15 years, 82.4 million (12.5%; 95% CI 5.9-19.1) among people aged <45 years, and 94.8 million (12.0%; 95% CI 5.0-18.8) in the total population. This increased to 49.7 million (13.9%; 95% CI 9.6-18.3) among children <15 years, 102.9 million (13.8%; 95% CI 6.2-21.4) among people aged <45 years, and 119.3 million (12.8%; 95% CI 8.2-17.1) in the total population in 2010. There were no significant differences between asthma prevalence in studies which ascertained cases by written and video questionnaires. Crude prevalences of asthma were, however, consistently higher among urban than rural dwellers. Conclusion. Our findings suggest an increasing prevalence of asthma in Africa over the past two decades. Due to the paucity of data, we believe that the true prevalence of asthma may still be under-estimated. There is a need for national governments in Africa to consider the implications of this increasing disease burden and to investigate the relative importance of underlying risk factors such as rising urbanization and population aging in their policy and health planning responses to this challenge.

Concepts: Public health, Epidemiology, Statistics, Asthma, Demography, Population, Aging, Prevalence


Driven by technological progress, human life expectancy has increased greatly since the nineteenth century. Demographic evidence has revealed an ongoing reduction in old-age mortality and a rise of the maximum age at death, which may gradually extend human longevity. Together with observations that lifespan in various animal species is flexible and can be increased by genetic or pharmaceutical intervention, these results have led to suggestions that longevity may not be subject to strict, species-specific genetic constraints. Here, by analysing global demographic data, we show that improvements in survival with age tend to decline after age 100, and that the age at death of the world’s oldest person has not increased since the 1990s. Our results strongly suggest that the maximum lifespan of humans is fixed and subject to natural constraints.

Concepts: Senescence, Mortality rate, Demography, Gerontology, Life expectancy, Aging, Maximum life span, Longevity


The population of older people continues to increase around the world, and this trend is expected to continue; the population of older drivers is increasing accordingly. January 2012 figures from the DVLA in the UK stated that there were more than 15 million drivers aged over 60; more than 1 million drivers were aged over 80. There is a need for specific research tools to understand and capture how all users interact with features in the vehicle cabin e.g. controls and tasks, including the specific needs of the increasingly older driving population. This paper describes an in-depth audit that was conducted to understand how design of the vehicle cabin impacts on comfort, posture, usability, health and wellbeing in older drivers. The sample involved 47 drivers (38% female, 62% male). The age distribution was: 50-64 (n = 12), 65-79 (n = 20), and those 80 and over (n = 15). The methodology included tools to capture user experience in the vehicle cabin and functional performance tests relevant to specific driving tasks. It is shown that drivers' physical capabilities reduce with age and that there are associated difficulties in setting up an optimal driving position such that some controls cannot be operated as intended, and many adapt their driving cabins. The cabin set-up process consistently began with setting up the seat and finished with operation of the seat belt.

Concepts: Population, Gerontology, Ageing, Aging


Many decisions involve uncertainty, or ‘risk’, regarding potential outcomes, and substantial empirical evidence has demonstrated that human aging is associated with diminished tolerance for risky rewards. Grey matter volume in a region of right posterior parietal cortex (rPPC) is predictive of preferences for risky rewards in young adults, with less grey matter volume indicating decreased tolerance for risk. That grey matter loss in parietal regions is a part of healthy aging suggests that diminished rPPC grey matter volume may have a role in modulating risk preferences in older adults. Here we report evidence for this hypothesis and show that age-related declines in rPPC grey matter volume better account for age-related changes in risk preferences than does age per se. These results provide a basis for understanding the neural mechanisms that mediate risky choice and a glimpse into the neurodevelopmental dynamics that impact decision-making in an aging population.

Concepts: Decision making, Risk, Decision theory, Cerebrum, Aging, Frontal lobe, Parietal lobe, Posterior parietal cortex


As human lifespan increases, a greater fraction of the population is suffering from age-related cognitive impairments, making it important to elucidate a means to combat the effects of aging. Here we report that exposure of an aged animal to young blood can counteract and reverse pre-existing effects of brain aging at the molecular, structural, functional and cognitive level. Genome-wide microarray analysis of heterochronic parabionts-in which circulatory systems of young and aged animals are connected-identified synaptic plasticity-related transcriptional changes in the hippocampus of aged mice. Dendritic spine density of mature neurons increased and synaptic plasticity improved in the hippocampus of aged heterochronic parabionts. At the cognitive level, systemic administration of young blood plasma into aged mice improved age-related cognitive impairments in both contextual fear conditioning and spatial learning and memory. Structural and cognitive enhancements elicited by exposure to young blood are mediated, in part, by activation of the cyclic AMP response element binding protein (Creb) in the aged hippocampus. Our data indicate that exposure of aged mice to young blood late in life is capable of rejuvenating synaptic plasticity and improving cognitive function.

Concepts: Psychology, Brain, Blood, Cognition, Memory, Hippocampus, Aging, Dendritic spine


Cognitive control is defined by a set of neural processes that allow us to interact with our complex environment in a goal-directed manner. Humans regularly challenge these control processes when attempting to simultaneously accomplish multiple goals (multitasking), generating interference as the result of fundamental information processing limitations. It is clear that multitasking behaviour has become ubiquitous in today’s technologically dense world, and substantial evidence has accrued regarding multitasking difficulties and cognitive control deficits in our ageing population. Here we show that multitasking performance, as assessed with a custom-designed three-dimensional video game (NeuroRacer), exhibits a linear age-related decline from 20 to 79 years of age. By playing an adaptive version of NeuroRacer in multitasking training mode, older adults (60 to 85 years old) reduced multitasking costs compared to both an active control group and a no-contact control group, attaining levels beyond those achieved by untrained 20-year-old participants, with gains persisting for 6 months. Furthermore, age-related deficits in neural signatures of cognitive control, as measured with electroencephalography, were remediated by multitasking training (enhanced midline frontal theta power and frontal-posterior theta coherence). Critically, this training resulted in performance benefits that extended to untrained cognitive control abilities (enhanced sustained attention and working memory), with an increase in midline frontal theta power predicting the training-induced boost in sustained attention and preservation of multitasking improvement 6 months later. These findings highlight the robust plasticity of the prefrontal cognitive control system in the ageing brain, and provide the first evidence, to our knowledge, of how a custom-designed video game can be used to assess cognitive abilities across the lifespan, evaluate underlying neural mechanisms, and serve as a powerful tool for cognitive enhancement.

Concepts: Central nervous system, Psychology, Brain, Attention, Cognitive psychology, Cognition, Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, Aging


Aging in many animals is characterized by a failure to maintain tissue homeostasis and the loss of regenerative capacity. In this study, the ability to maintain tissue homeostasis and regenerative potential was investigated in sea urchins, a novel model to study longevity and negligible senescence. Sea urchins grow indeterminately, regenerate damaged appendages and reproduce throughout their lifespan and yet different species are reported to have very different life expectancies (ranging from 4 to more than 100 years). Quantitative analyses of cell proliferation and apoptosis indicated a low level of cell turnover in tissues of young and old sea urchins of species with different lifespans (Lytechinus variegatus, Strongylocentrotus purpuratus and Mesocentrotus franciscanus). The ability to regenerate damaged tissue was maintained with age as assessed by the regrowth of amputated spines and tube feet (motor and sensory appendages). Expression of genes involved in cell proliferation (pcna), telomere maintenance (tert) and multipotency (seawi and vasa) was maintained with age in somatic tissues. Immunolocalization of the Vasa protein to areas of the tube feet, spines, radial nerve, esophagus and a sub-population of circulating coelomocytes suggests the presence of multipotent cells that may play a role in normal tissue homeostasis and the regenerative potential of external appendages. The results indicate that regenerative potential was maintained with age regardless of lifespan, contrary to the expectation that shorter lived species would invest less in maintenance and repair.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Senescence, Organism, Cell division, Gerontology, Life expectancy, Aging