Think achy joints are the main reason we slow down as we get older? New research suggests you can blame the brain, too: The part in charge of motion may start a gradual downhill slide at age 40.
How fast you can throw a ball or run or swerve a steering wheel depends on how speedily brain cells fire off commands to muscles. Fast firing depends on good insulation for your brain's wiring.
A UCLA-led study suggests that in middle age, even healthy people begin to lose some of that insulation, known as myelin, in a motor-control part of the brain -- at the same rate their speed subtly slows.
And while that may sound depressing, consider this. The research points to yet another reason to stay physically and mentally active: An exercised brain may spot fraying insulation quicker and signal for repair cells to get to work.
The findings are reported in the journal Neurobiology of Aging.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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