A study led by the University of California Davis Health has revealed that human brains grow larger as people age, potentially helping to prevent dementia. The research, which used MRI data from the Framingham Heart Study, found that babies born in the 1970s had almost 15 percent more brain surface area and 6.6 percent more brain volume than those born in the 1930s. In addition to an increase in brain size, the study also observed growth in parts of the brain associated with memory and learning.

While the implications of a larger brain are still uncertain in terms of intelligence, researchers believe that a larger brain could be beneficial for brain health. Despite an increase in the number of Alzheimer’s patients as people age, the percentage of newly diagnosed individuals actually decreases per decade. This suggests that there may be a potential link between brain size and cognitive decline, with a larger brain potentially providing a greater reserve against age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.

UC Davis professor of neurology Charles DeCarly, who led the study, believes that larger brain structures may reflect improved brain development and health, creating a greater reserve that could potentially protect against cognitive decline. The findings suggest that a larger brain may be beneficial when it comes to maintaining cognitive function as we age.

By Samantha Johnson

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