Brain atrophy: types, causes, symptoms and treatment

The brain regulates the work of all organ systems. Any damage to it threatens the normal functioning of the whole organism. Atrophy is a pathological condition in which there is a progression of the death of neurons and the loss of connections between them. This condition requires professional diagnosis and treatment. About the types of atrophy and therapy described in the article.

What it is?

The main organ of the people is the brain, which includes many nerve cells. Atrophic changes in its cortex lead to the gradual death of nerve cells, and mental abilities go out with time. The duration of a person's life depends on the age when this pathology began to develop.

brain atrophy

Changes in behavior are noticeable in almost all older people, but due to the slow development, these signs of extinction are not considered pathological. Many older people are unable to respond to surrounding changes as well as at a young age.Elderly intelligence decreases, but these changes do not cause neurology, psychopathy and dementia.

With cerebral atrophy of the brain, its cells gradually die off and nerve endings die. This condition is considered a pathology in which changes occur in the structure of the hemispheres. Also, there is a smoothing of convolutions, a decrease in the volume and weight of this organ. The frontal lobes are more often destroyed, because of which the intellect decreases and deviations in behavior appear.


Today in medicine there is no clear answer to the question of why brain atrophy occurs. But it was found that the susceptibility to the disease can be inherited. She also formed from birth trauma and intrauterine diseases. Professionals identify congenital and acquired causes of the appearance of the disease.


These include:

  • genetic factor;
  • intrauterine infectious diseases;
  • genetic mutations.

One of the genetic ailments that affects the cerebral cortex is Pick's disease. It is usually observed in middle-aged people, which is manifested in the gradual lesion of the frontal and temporal neurons. The disease is able to develop rapidly and after 5-6 years leads to death.

cortical atrophy of the brain

Infection of the child during pregnancy also leads to the destruction of various organs, including the brain. For example, infection with toxoplasmosis in the early stages of gestation leads to damage to the nervous system. After this, babies usually do not survive or are born with congenital abnormalities and oligophrenia.


There are acquired reasons. Brain atrophy can occur from:

  1. Alcohol use and smoking. This causes a spasm of cerebral vessels, so oxygen starvation appears. Because of this, the cells of the white matter will not be able to get enough nutrients, because of what they die.
  2. Infectious diseases that affect nerve cells - meningitis, rabies, polio.
  3. Injuries, concussions and mechanical damage.
  4. Severe renal failure. This causes a general intoxication of the body, because of which there is an imbalance.
  5. Disorders of hydrocephalus. This phenomenon is manifested in an increase in subarachnoid space and ventricles.
  6. Chronic ischemia, which leads to vascular damage and a small supply of nutrients to the neural connections.
  7. Atherosclerosis, which is manifested in the narrowing of the lumen of the veins and arteries, because of which increases intracranial pressure and there is a risk of stroke.

Atrophy of the cerebral cortex can occur due to lack of intellectual and physical activity, lack of a balanced diet and poor lifestyle.

Why does ailment develop?

Brain atrophy in adults and children usually develops with a genetic susceptibility to illness, but the acceleration and provocation of neuronal death can occur from various injuries and other factors. Atrophic changes appear in different parts of the crust and subcortical substance, but with different manifestations of the disease there is one clinical picture. Small changes can be stopped and improved by a person's medical means and with the help of lifestyle changes, but to completely get rid of the disease will not work.

Atrophy of the frontal lobes develops during fetal maturation or prolonged labor due to prolonged oxygen starvation, causing necrotic processes in the cerebral cortex.These children usually die in the womb or appear with marked abnormalities. Cells of the brain can die off due to mutations at the gene level due to the effect of harmful components on the health of a pregnant woman and prolonged fetal intoxication. But it may be a chromosomal failure.

Signs of

What are the signs of brain atrophy? At the initial stage of the disease, the symptoms are hardly noticeable; only close people can detect them. The patient appears apathy, lack of desires, aspirations, there is lethargy and indifference. Often there is a lack of moral principles and increased sexual activity.

moderate brain atrophy

With the progression of the death of brain cells, the following symptoms are observed:

  1. The vocabulary decreases, so a person searches for words for a description of something.
  2. Intellectual abilities are reduced in a short time.
  3. No self-criticism.
  4. Loss of control over the actions, there is a deterioration of the body motility.

Then, with atrophy, deterioration of well-being appears, mental processes are reduced. A person does not recognize familiar things, forgets about the rules of their use.The elimination of their behavioral features is the cause of the appearance of the “mirror” syndrome, in which a person begins to copy other people. Then there is senility and absolute degradation of the individual.

Changes in behavior do not allow to accurately identify the diagnosis, therefore, in order to establish the reasons for the changes, it is necessary to conduct a list of studies. But thanks to the doctor, it will be possible to establish what place the brain has undergone destructurization. With destruction in the cerebral cortex:

  • thought processes are reduced;
  • distorted tone of speech and voice timbre;
  • ability to memorize changes;
  • broken fine motor finger.

Symptoms of changes in the subcortical substance are determined from the functions that the affected department performs, therefore, limited atrophy has its features. With necrosis of the tissues of the medulla oblongata, breathing is observed, digestion fails, and the cardiovascular and immune systems suffer.

If there is a lesion of the cerebellum, then there is a disorder of muscle tone, coordination of movements is disturbed. With the destruction of the middle brain, there is no response to external stimuli.When the cells of the intermediate section die off, a violation of the body's thermoregulation and a metabolism failure appear.

With the defeat of the anterior part all reflexes are lost. When neurons die off, the function of independent life support is lost, which usually leads to death. Often, necrotic changes appear from injuries or long-term toxin poisoning.

Degrees of severity

According to the international classification, there are different degrees of brain atrophy and locations of pathology. Each stage of the treatment of the disease has its own symptoms:

  1. The first degree is called brain subatrophy. At this stage, there are minor changes in human behavior and rapid progression to the next stage. Early diagnosis is important here, since the disease can be temporarily stopped and the person’s lifetime depends on the effectiveness of the treatment.
  2. At stage 2, the communicability of the patient worsens, he becomes irritable and incontinent, the tone of speech is transformed.
  3. In time 3 degrees, a person becomes uncontrollable, psychosis occurs, morality is lost.
  4. At the 4th stage, there is a noticeable lack of understanding of reality, the patient does not respond to external stimuli.

With further development, complete destruction appears, vital systems fail. At this stage, it is better to hospitalize the patient in a psychiatric clinic, since it is difficult to control.

According to the location of the affected cells there are the following types of ailments:

  1. Cortical atrophy of the brain. Appears in the elderly. When cortical atrophy of the brain affects the frontal lobes. It lasts for a lifetime.
  2. Diffuse atrophy of the brain. There is a violation of the blood supply, atherosclerosis, hypertension and a decrease in mental abilities develop. In the first degree of this form of the disease, the first manifestations are noticeable in the cerebellum, and then the rest of the organ is affected.
  3. Multisystem atrophy of the brain. Developed due to mutations and gene disorders during pregnancy. In this form of the disease affects not only the brain, but the rest of the vital system. Longevity is determined by the degree of mutation of the body and viability.
  4. Local atrophy 1 degree arises from mechanical lesions, strokes, focal infections and parasitic inclusions. Symptoms depend on which area is damaged.
  5. Subcortical or subcortical form of the disease is considered an intermediate state, in which the centers responsible for the function of speech and thinking are damaged.

With moderate brain atrophy, changes in personality will be barely noticeable.

In children

Atrophy of the brain may occur in a child. It is both congenital and acquired, it all depends on the age at which the ailment began to develop. Acquired form appears after 1 year of life. The death of nerve cells in children begins for various reasons, for example, because of the genetic factor, different Rh factors in the mother and baby, infection with neuroinfections in the womb, prolonged hypoxia of the fetus.

Due to the death of neurons, cystic tumors and atrophic hydrocephalus occur. On the basis of where the accumulation of CSF occurs, the edema of the brain is internal, external, and mixed. A rapidly developing disease is usually observed in newborns,and this is associated with serious violations in the brain tissues due to prolonged hypoxia, since the child's body at this stage needs intensive blood supply, and the lack of nutrients causes serious consequences.

What disorders affect the brain?

Subatrophic changes are precursors of global neuronal death. At this stage, it is necessary to promptly detect a brain disease and prevent the rapid development of atrophic processes.

signs of brain atrophy

For example, with cerebral hydrocephalus in adults, the free voids are free from destruction, and are filled with the resulting liquor. This type of disease is difficult to diagnose, but with the right therapy, it will be possible to delay the development of the disease.

Changes in the cortex and subcortical substance are caused by thromophilia and atherosclerosis, which, without treatment, lead to hypoxia and insufficient blood supply. As a result, neurons die in the back of the head and the parietal part, so treatment is needed to improve blood circulation.

Alcohol atrophy

Brain neurons are very sensitive to the effects of alcohol.Neurons are poisoned from the decay products, neuronal connections are destroyed, and then gradual cell death occurs. This leads to brain atrophy.

As a result, both cortical and subcortical cells and fibers of the brain stem are affected. Damage of vessels, wrinkling of neurons and displacement of their nuclei occurs. In patients with alcoholism, self-esteem disappears, memory deteriorates. If he continues to drink alcohol, it will lead to severe intoxication of the body. And even if a person has changed his mind, Alzheimer's disease and dementia still develop in the future.

Multisystem atrophy

This ailment is considered progressive. The occurrence of the disease includes 3 different disorders, combined with each other in different ways. But usually this atrophy is manifested in the form:

  • parsionism;
  • destruction of the cerebellum;
  • autonomic disorders.
brain atrophy in children

To date, the causes of this disease have not been identified. Diagnosis is performed using MRI and clinical examination. Treatment includes maintenance therapy and reduction of signs of illness.

Cortical atrophy

Usually this type of disease is observed in older people and appears due to senile changes. It affects the frontal lobes, but the disease can spread to other parts. Signs of illness do not occur immediately, but as a result there is a decrease in intelligence and memory, dementia. An example of the effect of such a disease is Alzheimer's disease. Usually diagnosed with MRI.

When the disease spreads diffusely, blood flow is impaired, tissue repair is suffocated and mental performance decreases. There is also a disorder of the fine motor skills of the hands and coordination of movements, the development of the disease changes the way of life and leads to absolute incapacity.

Cerebellar atrophy

In this disease, the cells of the “small brain” are affected and die. The first symptoms of the disease are manifested in the form of discoordination of movements, paralysis and speech disorders. With changes in the cerebellar cortex, atherosclerosis of the vessels and brain stem tumors, infectious diseases, vitamin deficiency and metabolic disturbances usually develop.

degree of brain atrophy

Atrophy of the cerebellum is manifested in the form of:

  • speech disorders and fine motor skills;
  • headache;
  • nausea, vomiting;
  • reduce hearing acuity;
  • visual disorders;
  • reduce the mass and volume of the cerebellum.

Treatment involves blocking the signs of illness with neuroleptics, restoring metabolism, and using cytostatics for tumors. Probably the elimination of formations using a surgical method.


The disease is diagnosed by instrumental methods of analysis. With the help of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) it will be possible to examine in detail the changes in the cortical and subcortical substance. Based on the finished images, an accurate diagnosis is made in the early stages of the disease.

Thanks to computed tomography, it is possible to examine the lesions of blood vessels after a stroke and determine the causes of hemorrhage, determine the site of cystic formations, which causes the normal blood supply to the tissues. A new method of research is considered multispiral tomography, with the help of which it will be possible to identify the ailment at the initial stage.

Treatment and Prevention

By following the simple rules, it is possible to alleviate the symptoms and prolong the life of a person. When the diagnosis is made, it is desirable for the patient to remain in a familiar environment, since stress exacerbates the condition. A person needs a reasonable mental and physical stress.

It is important to a balanced diet, you need to restore a clear daily routine. It is necessary to give up bad habits. You also need physical activity, mental exercises. Diet for atrophy involves the rejection of heavy, harmful food, do not eat fast food, drink alcohol is strictly prohibited. The menu should be nuts, seafood and herbs.

brain atrophy in adults

Treatment of brain atrophy involves the use of neutrostimulants, tranquilizers, antidepressants and sedatives. This disease cannot be completely cured, therapy only reduces the symptoms. The choice of means depends on the type of atrophy and the type of impaired functions.

With lesions in the cerebellar cortex, treatment is required to restore movements. Still need to use drugs that weaken the tremor. At times, surgery is needed.

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