Scientists have discovered new information about the way the brain is affected by age.
Biologists at the University of York and Hull York Medical School working with scientists at the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry in Plymouth, studied responses to stress in synapses-neuronal connections.
They discovered that under stressful conditions, such as neuro-degeneration, resulting high-energy forms of damaging oxygen cause synapses to grow excessively, potentially contributing to dysfunction.
Such stresses occur during neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.
"Neuronal contacts in the brain are constantly changing. These changes in the brain enable us to form short term memories such as where we parked the car, or longer term memories, such as what is our pin number for the cash point machine," said co-author Dr Iain Robinson, of the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry.
"Our work sheds light on how our brain becomes less able to make these changes in neuronal contacts as we age and helps explain the loss of neuronal contacts seen in several neurodegenerative diseases," he added.
The study has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.