Age can be seen in images of the brain

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MRI images of the brain reveal age

The imaging method of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) enables images of the brain, on which not only diseases and injuries can be recognized, but also the age of the patient can obviously be read. US scientists from the University of California at San Diego have developed software that uses MRI scans to determine a person's age relatively precisely.

As the research team led by Timothy Brown from the Institute of Neurosciences at the University of California (San Diego) reports in the journal "Current Biology", their specially developed computer program used the images from the magnetic resonance tomograph to determine the age of young people with an accuracy of over 90 percent . In her opinion, a photo of the brain could be sufficient in the future to predict the age of patients relatively precisely.

Biological signature of the brain enables conclusions to be drawn about age In the course of their study, the American researchers had evaluated the magnetic resonance imaging of 885 people between the ages of three and 20 years. They identified 231 biomarkers in the human brain that change with age. The changes in these biological characteristics over time were fed into a special software that is able to perceive and evaluate all biomarkers at the same time. The biomarkers, so to speak, give an age-appropriate signature of the brain, on the basis of which the computer program can determine the age with an accuracy of 92 percent - at least in young patients.

Brain maturation in a narrow timeline Although previous studies had already identified some biomarkers that allow conclusions to be drawn about the age of the brain, the US researchers led by Timothy Brown were able to look at and evaluate all factors at the same time. This enabled the extremely precise statements to be made about the actual age of the patients. They also found that the brain maturation apparently runs in much narrower ways than previously assumed. In children of one age, the average difference in the phase of brain maturation was only about a year, Brown and colleagues report in the scientific article "Neuroanatomical Assessment of Biological Maturity".

Detecting diseases and malformations at an early stage So far, it is largely unclear what effect the change in biomarkers could have on cognitive abilities and behavior. However, the US scientists were convinced that their "study will have an impact on brain medicine and research" and that in the future their method may also be used to detect malformations, neurodegenerative diseases and other noticeable changes in the brain. (fp)

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Image: Dieter Schütz /

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