Aging and Behavior: A Comprehensive Integration of Research by Jack Botwinick

By Jack Botwinick

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Nervous System. This major organ system-the brain, spinal cord, and mass of neural connections-is the central coordinating system of the body. It innervates other organ systems and maintains contact with the external world and internal environment. It evaluates information and processes it; it is the system of all mentalIife. The nervaus system is made up of billions of nerve cells (neurons). These are connected by nerve fibers that conduct nerve impulses away from the cell (axons) and also conduct impulses toward the cell (dendrites).

Beyond this level, problems in cognition might be expected, although it has never been demonstrated that cellloss is the basis of any cognitive problem. Thus, the impact of neuron lass, if any, has yet to be determined. There is also a decrease with age in the number of dendrites and number of synapses (points where impulses pass from one neuron to another). This may be the result of the lass of neurons, but it is not certain that this is so (see Bondareff, 1981, pp. 140-147). Again, the functional importance of these changes is uncertain.

Hayflick started with the simple goal of developing human cell cultures free from disease. He chose to do this with embryonic tissue because such tissue is most likely to be free of disease. "The major surprise ... was the finding that the narmal cell populations grew and divided perfectly for many 40 0 AGING AND BEHAVIOR months, then slowed down, stopped dividing, and ultimately died" (HayAick, 1974, pp. 37-38). He focused on some strains of human fibroblasts derived from embryos (cells giving rise to connective tissue-a tissue that deteriorates with age).

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