Normal vs. Alzheimer's Brain

Suppose you could peer deep inside your brain. What story would it tell? Would it be humming along, clicking on all cylinders? Or would it be sputtering and misfiring, resulting in memory lapses and other signs of eroded thinking skills?

The two extremes are depicted in this illustration, which shows a crosswise “slice” through the middle of the brain between the ears. Notice the difference between the robust, healthy brain on the left and the brain on the right, where massive cell loss denotes advanced Alzheimer’s disease.

In the Alzheimer's brain:

  • The cortex shrivels up, damaging areas involved in thinking, planning and remembering.
  • Shrinkage is especially severe in the hippocampus, an area of the cortex that plays a key role in forming new memories.
  • Ventricles (fluid-filled spaces within the brain) grow larger.

Although aging is the primary risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, longevity doesn’t automatically sentence us to the brain on the right.

Thanks to funding from the Caesars Foundation, you can visit Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health’s HealthyBrains.org to calculate your Brain Health Index score using a free, online self-assessment tool. 

Learn what you can do to make your brain span match your lifespan.