The brain is known to shrink with age, by about 5% per decade in later adult life, though the underlying processes leading to this loss of volume are not well understood in detail. The research here adds to existing evidence for loss of volume to correlate with loss of cognitive function. It is unclear as to what can be done specifically to address this issue beyond developing the means to repair the list of damage and dysfunction that causes aging, and observing the results as repair therapies are deployed, first in animals, and then in humans.
The human cerebellum plays an essential role in motor control, is involved in cognitive function and helps to regulate emotional responses. However, little is known about the relationship between cerebellar lobules and age-related memory decline. We aimed to investigate volume alterations in cerebellar lobules at different ages and assess their correlations with reduced memory recall abilities.
A sample of 275 individuals were divided into the following four groups: 20-35 years (young), 36-50 years (early-middle age), 51-65 years (late-middle age), and 66-89 years (old). Volumes of the cerebellar lobules were obtained using volBrain software. Group differences in cerebellar lobular volumes were assessed, and multiple comparisons were used to investigate the relationship between lobular volumes and memory recall scores.
We found that older adults had smaller cerebellar volumes than the other subjects. Volumetric decreases in size were noted in bilateral lobule VI and lobule crus I. Moreover, the volumes of bilateral lobule crus I, lobule VI, and right lobule IV were significantly associated with memory recall scores. Thus some lobules of the cerebellum appear more predisposed to age-related changes than other lobules. These findings provide further evidence that specific regions of the cerebellum could be used to assess the risk of memory decline across the adult lifespan.