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The Aging Brain: The Nun Study

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A) It is a fact that some life-span experts argue that biological aging begins at birth. Using the biological theories of aging as background, which are (1) Evolutionary Theory, (2) Cellular Clock Theory, (3) Free-Radical Theory, (4) Mitochondrial Theory, and (5) Hormonal Stress. Describe how each of these five theories explains changes in the brain as we reach late adulthood.

B) Review the details of "The Nun Study" directed by David Snowdon - it is an intriguing ongoing investigation of aging in 678 nuns, many of whom are from a convent in Mankato, Minnesota. (1) Describe how the cognitive functioning of late adults can be impaired or enhanced with stimulation and activity. (2) Explain how the results of "The Nun Study" are substantiated by the "Use It or Lose It" theory of cognitive functioning.

C) Does Staying intellectually challenged affect one's quality of life and longevity?

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Solution Preview

A. Evolutionary Theory: This theory was based on natural selection. Basically, as you age, your body wears out and is more prone to late-life degenerative diseases (Gavrilova, 2002).

Cellular Clock Theory: It is thought that "as we age, our cells, which normally can divide approximately 75 to 80 times, becomes progressively less capable of dividing. Research has also shown that telomeres becomes shorter and shorter each time a cell divides, and this has been associated with an diminished ability to recover from stress as well as an escalated rate of forming cancer" (jubuncic, & Reznick, 2009).

Free-Radical Theory: It is believed that "as we age, various reactive oxygen species (ROS) can cause extensive cumulative damage and the mutations of the mitochondrial DNA will accumulate and will lead to loss of function and cell death which has been linked to what we now call Alzheimer's disease" (Beckman, & Ames, ...

Solution Summary

The biological theories of aging explain the various changes that happen in the brain as we age into late adulthood. The "Nun Study" was done to show how cognitive functioning can be affected with stimuli and activity. This solution is 517 words.

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