University of Newcastle Centre for Brain Ageing & Vitality supported by BBSRC, EPSRC, ESRC and MRC

Lead Research Organisation: Newcastle University
Department Name: Research, Strategy & Development


In the UK there is a major change in the age of the population - we are all living much longer. Unfortunately old age is often associated with poor health. We still do not understand why this. What we want to understand is why the brain ages and how exercise and diet are helpful to healthy ageing of the brain and body.

As we get older the thing we often fear is getting dementia, Parkinson’s disease or other age related diseases. Whilst these diseases can also strike relatively young people, the majority of people with these diseases are elderly. What is it about our brains as they age that means that we are at much greater risk of these diseases?

Lots of different work has shown that exercise is good for us, but this is particularly true the older we get. It is really important to know how much exercise we should take to keep our muscles strong and make sure we keep mobile as we get older. There are similar findings with different diets, some seem to be much healthier than others – but what are the most important ingredients?

The new MRC Centre for Brain Ageing and Vitality in Newcastle is going to try and answer these questions about our ageing brain and our lifestyle.

Technical Summary

The MRC Centre for Brain Ageing and Vitality will develop innovative, world-class research and training related to brain ageing and frailty. The MRC Centre will be a partnership with Newcastle University and will be based in new purpose built laboratory space. The strategic added value from the MRC Centre for Brain Ageing and Vitality will come from targeted expansion of the interface between basic biogerontology and clinical brain ageing and by developing new programmes to address the relationship between the healthy ageing brain and the healthy ageing body. By focusing on vitality we will emphasise the considerable potential to deliver major benefits to patients and the general public, as well as reductions in the health and social care costs of an ageing population. The programme on brain ageing will address the following questions: what are the mechanisms of neuronal loss and dysfunction associated with age, how do these mechanisms vary between different neuronal populations and what role do mitochondria play in these processes; what are the links between mechanisms of intrinsic ageing and neurodegeneration/vascular disease, and how is this relationship affected by age-related changes in the neurovascular environment; what is the mechanism and importance of ageing of glial and stem cells? The programme on brain ageing will make use of the extensive (i) Newcastle Brain Tissue Resource (snap frozen and fixed tissue from 1000+ mostly older individuals) and (ii) a dedicated aged mouse unit. The programme on lifelong health and vitality will address the following research questions: what are the mechanisms involved in the protective effect of different forms of exercise on musculoskeletal ageing in terms of physiology, mitochondrial function and muscle/joint pathology; what is the impact of nutritional factors on musculoskeletal and brain ageing with particular emphasis on epigenetic and genetic modifications of nuclear and mitochondrial genomes? To achieve this we will build capacity in exercise physiology, magnetic resonance spectroscopy, in vitro biochemical and molecular methods and nutrition. The MRC Centre?s training programme will include integrated MRes/PhD for 12 students, development of an E-learning MRes, innovative workshops and public lectures. We will work closely with stakeholders and will build elements of research into the process of public engagement into our activities.


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