Researchers discover that human brains are growing bigger each generation

A team of scientists has found that human brains have been getting bigger over the years, suggesting that bigger brains may help stave off dementia as people age. The researchers, led by the University of California Davis Health, studied MRIs of individuals born from the 1930s to the 1970s. They found that babies born in the 1970s had nearly 15 percent more brain surface area and 6.6 percent more brain volume than those born in the 1930s. The study used MRI data from the Framingham Heart Study, which has been ongoing since 1948, and included brain scans from 3,226 subjects.

In addition to an increase in brain volume and surface area, researchers also observed growth in parts of the brain associated with memory and learning. The implications of these larger brains are still uncertain in terms of intelligence, but researchers believe that having a larger brain could be beneficial for brain health. While the number of Alzheimer’s disease patients has been increasing with the aging population, the percentage of newly diagnosed individuals has actually decreased per decade. This information was based on a study published in 2016 in the New England Journal of Medicine, which also analyzed data from the Framingham Heart Study.

UC Davis professor of neurology and study first author Charles DeCarli suggested that larger brain structures may reflect improved brain development and health, creating a larger brain reserve that could potentially protect against age-related brain diseases like Alzheimer’s and related dementias. The research findings hint at a potential link between brain size and brain health, suggesting that having a bigger brain could be advantageous when it comes to age-related cognitive decline.

By Samantha Robertson

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