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
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