The brain is often called our grey matter but it also contains white matter, a tissue once thought to be passive but now known to help transmit nerve impulses. To understand more about white matter, researchers scanned 24 regions of the brain in people aged 7 to 85. They found that white matter, like most tissues, matures then deteriorates with age – but this rate of change varies, for example occurring much more rapidly in regions of the brain dealing with learning than those dealing with movement. A map of the brain, pictured, was constructed from the study, with different colours representing how quickly white matter changes with age – red is fastest and blue slowest. This type of brain mapping may help doctors diagnose and treat a range of disorders associated with white matter abnormalities including schizophrenia, autism, learning disabilities and multiple sclerosis.
Written by Mick Warwicker
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.