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Aging affects the whole brain functionality which leads to many psychiatric disorders which mainly includes dementia, cognitive impairment, depression, delirium etc. Mental disorders induce functional disability, disturb rehabilitation, burden the health system and impair life-quality of older patients and their relatives.
Neuroplasticity can be defined as a final common pathway of neurobiological processes, including structural, functional, or molecular mechanisms, that result in stability or compensation for age- or disease-related changes. The adult brain needs oxygen and stimulation to stay sharp and capable of change. Researchers have identified the following three habits as facilitating neuroplasticity as we age: physical exercise (which increases blood flow to the brain, delivering much-needed oxygen), paying attention, and learning new things.
Evidence suggests that older adults show less neuroplasticity than younger subjects, and we argue that interventions that successfully delay age-related cognitive decline will yield greater benefits than short-term facilitation of cognition. The young brain displays the greatest plasticity. Neurons and synapses experience a huge increase in number even before a person can perform basic functions like talking and walking. Between birth and two or three years of age, the number of synapses in the brain increases from 2,500 to 15,000 per neuron.
In addition to improving neuroplasticity by altering the synaptic structure and function in various brain regions, exercise also modulates systems like angiogenesis and glial activation that are known to support neuroplasticity. Psychostimulant drugs such as amphetamine and cocaine are prototypic drugs inducing neuroplasticity changes, and they have been extensively studies during the last years.