Brain shrinkage, a common symptom of aging, appears to have no impact on an individual’s capacity to think or learn, Australian researchers find.

Australian National University researcher Helen Christensen said the findings challenged traditional beliefs about the impact of aging on the brain.

The common belief is that the brain shrinks with age and that this shrinkage is linked to poorer memory and thinking, she said. There is also a belief that greater education, or continued, sustained intellectual activity might allow people to better accommodate the effects of brain aging.

Christensen said her group’s findings do not support those notions.

It is known that the brain shrinks over the course of a person’s life, although the exact trajectory is not well understood, and there are huge individual differences, she said.

Christensen said the new study found no relationship between brain shrinkage and education level.

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