The effects of aging on the brain are widespread: Growing old causes changes to the brain’s size, vasculature, and cognition, among other changes, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. Researchers may have found a new method to slow this process in the hippocampus, an area of the brain responsible for learning and memory, and which shrinks over time.

A new study from the University of Queensland showed that ultrasounds, or sound wave therapy, appeared to slow the reduction of the hippocampus in the brains of laboratory mice, which suggests that ultrasound technology may slow the aging process in healthy brains, a news release stated.

Over a six-week period, researchers treated the mice with either one or six scanning ultrasound treatments and reviewed their brain cell structure and function two hours, one day, one week, and three months after receiving the treatment.

“We found that, far from causing any damage to the healthy brain, ultrasound treatments may in fact have potential beneficial effects for healthy aging brains,” Dr Hatch said in the news release.

“In a normal brain the structure of neuronal cells in the hippocampus, a brain area extremely important for learning and memory, is reduced with age. What we found is that treating mice with scanning ultrasound prevents this reduction in structure, which suggests that by using this approach we can keep the structure of the brain younger as we get older,” Dr Hatch added.

Last year, the same research team found that non-invasive ultrasound technology can reverse Alzheimer’s disease in mice. The new discovery of slowing down the brain’s aging process was actually discovered accidentally.

“Collectively, this research is fundamentally changing our understanding of not only how to treat Alzheimer’s but to maintain general brain health,” Dr Hatch said. “This is a pressing health issue in an aging society and it’s clear that scanning ultrasound technology has a major role to play.”

Source: Hatch RJ, Leinenga G, Götz J. Scanning Ultrasound (SUS) Causes No Changes to Neuronal Excitability and Prevents Age-Related Reductions in Hippocampal CA1 Dendritic Structure in Wild-Type Mice. PLOS One. 2016.

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