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IN THIS SECTION
Integumentary (Skin) System
Skeletal System
Muscular System
Nervous System
Endocrine System
Cardiovascular System
Lymphatic (Immune) System
Respiratory System
Digestive System
Urinary System
Reproductive System


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Nervous System

The major function of this system is to direct immediate responses to stimuli by coordinating the activities of other systems.

The aging process affects all body systems, and the nervous system is no exception. Anatomical changes begin shortly after maturity (probably by age 30) and accumulate over time. Although an estimated 85% of elderly over the age of 65 lead relatively normal lives, there are noticeable changes in mental performance and central nervous system (CNS) functioning.

Some common age-related anatomical changes in the nervous system include a reduction in brain size and weight due primarily to a decrease in the volume of the cerebral cortex. There is also a reduction in the number of neurons.

Blood flow to the brain is decreased as a result of fatty deposits that gradually accumulate in the walls of blood vessels and reduce the rate of arterial blood flow. This condition is called atherosclerosis and causes problems in more than just the brain. While reduced blood flow does not cause a cerebral crisis, it does increase the probability of suffering a stroke.

There are also changes in the synaptic organization of the brain which ultimately interferes with the body’s ability to adjust to internal and external stimuli. The number of dendrite branches and interconnections decrease, while the rate of neurotransmitter production declines. At the same time many neurons begin accumulating abnormal intracellular deposits or plaques. There is evidence that when these are present in excess, clinical abnormalities similar to Alzheimer’s disease occur.

 

Not so fun fact:

Alzheimer’s disease is a complex disease resulting from a combination of genetic mutations, genetic susceptibility, and environmental factors. It is a progressive disorder characterized by the loss of higher cerebral function, and it is the most common cause of senile dementia, commonly termed “senility.” The first symptoms usually appear at 50-60 years of age. Alzheimer’s disease affects an estimated 2 million people over the age of 65 in the US and causes approximately 100,000 deaths each year.


Fun fact:

The olfactory system, which is involved in the sense of smell, is very sensitive. As few as four molecules of an odorous substance can activate an olfactory receptor.

These anatomical changes are linked to a number of functional alterations. In general, neural processing becomes less efficient. For example, memory consolidation often becomes more difficult, and sensory systems of the elderly, notably hearing, balance, vision, smell, and taste, become less acute. Light must be brighter, sounds louder, and smells stronger before they are perceived.

 

 
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