The Aging Brain

A neuroscientist and award-winning professor takes you down to the molecular level of the brain to show you what you can do to prolong your health and keep your mind sharp.
The Aging Brain is rated 4.6 out of 5 by 223.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Aging Brain Easy read and very informative Good for anyone going through this time of life I am 72 and still learning something new every day
Date published: 2021-09-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent presenter We have seen six sessions and am sure the full course will be excellent.
Date published: 2021-09-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Good Intro to Understanding the Aging Brain This is a course of quality. The professor covers the field effectively and efficiently. The lectures give the student a good overview of the aging brain and enough substance to satisfy one's general curiosity. The coverage does not go much beyond that which intelligent students can get from a serious review of the news and literature available to those who generally follow these matters. Further, the discussion of immortality and steps beyond current science and medicine was too speculative to be very satisfying. I can't blame the professor for this, but I found the absence of scientific trials proving causality in many of the areas explored wholy unsatisfying. How is that there are only correlational studies on some the most serious topics that affect such a large percentage of our population on so many vital issues? You'd think the professor and other colleagues of his would seek funding to conduct randomized control trials around several of these big issues where scientific knowledge, instead of correlational hypotheses, could guide both doctors and the aging far better around best practices in healthy living. All this said, I recommend the course for all who have an interest in the topic.
Date published: 2021-07-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from very detailed and comprehensive Tremendous amount of material. The type of subject that needs to be viewed several times to absorb total content.
Date published: 2021-06-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Enlightening and informative An enlightening course. The professor laid a good foundation in the early episodes. I was very disheartened by what I learned in Episode 4, but there is good news in later episodes. This is the third course I have taken with this professor. So, do I like the material, or the instructor? Remember, as you will learn, correlation does not imply causation. Really, I like both. I have found the instructor makes the course more interesting. I have used all the courses together to increase my broader knowledge of the field, therefore getting more from each course.
Date published: 2021-04-05
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Disappointing. This course is not up to unusual GC standards in terms of content. First, there are only 12 lectures rather than the typical 24. Of the 12, only 6 (4-9) are specifically about the brain. The rest are about aging in general. Of the 6 brain lectures, most are reports of correlative cross-sectional studies, with few test subjects and low correlation coefficients (r2 values are not reported, but the data points are widely scattered). The conclusions of these studies are generally: "This study suggests that perhaps there might be a relationship between this and that, but not all scientists agree." And there are side stories that provide technical details not necessary to understanding the brain data. For example, there is a long explanation of how an MRI scanner works by flipping protons within a strong magnetic field, and that metal wheelchairs can actually be pulled to the MRI machine by its magnetic force. (Isn't it enough to know that an MRI machine images the brain by means of mapping regions of high and low water density?) It seems like these side stories are acting like filler because of lack of content on the main subject. My conclusion from this course is that either the professor is talking down to me, or that there really isn't much known about the aging brain.
Date published: 2020-12-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Engaging and Useful Another TGC+ success. The lectures were easy to understand and engaging. i sure learned a lot.
Date published: 2020-11-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Extremely well written and presented by Prof It was clearly presented and made for compelling watching.
Date published: 2020-10-10
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Delve into the latest neuroscientific research with 12 fascinating lectures that give you a deep understanding of what happens to the brain over time. Cutting-edge science comes to life as you go down to the cellular level of the brain to discover why certain brain functions decline-and which functions stay stable or even improve-and learn what you can do to prolong your health and keep your mind sharp.


Thad Polk
Thad Polk

Every aspect of our mental life is controlled by the brain. So if we ever hope to understand the human mind, and how it's affected by aging, by disease, and by drugs, then we need to develop a better understanding of the brain and the neural mechanisms that underlie cognition.


University of Michigan

Professor Thad A. Polk is an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor in the Department of Psychology and the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Michigan. He received a B.A. in Mathematics from the University of Virginia and an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Computer Science and Psychology from Carnegie Mellon University. He also received postdoctoral training in cognitive neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania.

Professor Polk's research combines functional imaging of the human brain with computational modeling and behavioral methods to investigate the neural architecture underlying cognition. Some of his major projects have investigated differences in the brains of smokers who quit compared with those who do not, changes in the brain as we age, and contributions of nature versus nurture to neural organization. Professor Polk regularly collaborates with scientists at the University of Texas at Dallas and at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, where he is a frequent visiting scientist.

Professor Polk regularly teaches on topics ranging from the human mind and brain, to cognitive psychology, to computational modeling of cognition. His teaching at the University of Michigan has been recognized by numerous awards, and he was named to The Princeton Review's list of the Best 300 Professors in the United States.

By This Professor

The Addictive Brain
The Learning Brain
Shocking Psychological Studies and the Lessons They Teach
The Aging Brain
The Aging Brain


The Aging Mind: What Changes?

01: The Aging Mind: What Changes?

Aging affects us all, and it's important to know how our cognitive functions change over our lives. The course opens with an examination of how fluid processing skills-such as episodic and working memory-tend to decline over time, whereas crystallized intelligence (how-to skills and accumulated knowledge) remains stable or even improves.

36 min
Why Don't We Live Forever?

02: Why Don't We Live Forever?

Take a look at how our genes influence the aging process. Professor Polk explores several theories for why we age and eventually die, then delves into the genetic mechanisms involved in aging. Find out how replication damages cells and why there is a limit to the number of healthy replications our cells can make.

33 min
Is Aging a Disease?

03: Is Aging a Disease?

Scientists debate whether aging is actually a disease, but the effects of aging indisputably resemble the symptoms of a disease. Here, examine three major mechanisms behind these effects: energy consumption, free radicals, and damage to our DNA. Then consider whether there could be a way to "cure" these effects.

29 min
Aging and Brain Structure

04: Aging and Brain Structure

See how the cognitive changes of aging relate to the biological changes discussed in the previous lectures. It turns out that regions of the brain associated with processing speed, executive function, and episodic memory are more susceptible to aging, which may explain why these cognitive functions are particularly susceptible to decline. Tour the anatomy of the brain and see age-related differenc...

28 min
Aging and Brain Function

05: Aging and Brain Function

Turn from the brain's structure to its activity. After reviewing how we study brain function via fMRI, Professor Polk shows you how brain activity changes as we age-and how these changes impact our memory, our ability to multitask, and more. Then, learn some good news about how the brain compensates for these changes.

31 min
Emotional Aging

06: Emotional Aging

Many studies agree that people older than 65 typically experience a greater sense of emotional well-being than younger people. See what scientific research shows about our evolving emotional landscape, and why older people tend to be happier than the young. Depression can still be a problem for older adults, though-consider the most common causes, discover how symptoms may differ from those of you...

30 min
Strategies for an Aging Memory

07: Strategies for an Aging Memory

How does memory work? Can aspects of it be improved? This eye-opening lecture offers a test of two different strategies for memorization: sheer repetition on the one hand, and visual-spatial storytelling on the other. Once you understand how memory works, you'll investigate four key principles that you can apply to improve your own memory.

31 min
Dementia and Alzheimer's Disease

08: Dementia and Alzheimer's Disease

Find out what medical scientists mean by "dementia," which results from disease and is not a normal part of healthy aging. The most prominent disease that causes dementia is Alzheimer's, so Professor Polk walks you through its history, symptoms, and palliative treatments, as well as the current state of Alzheimer's research.

32 min
Parkinson's Disease and Stroke

09: Parkinson's Disease and Stroke

Continue your study of age-related brain diseases with an investigation of Parkinson's disease and stroke. What are they? How do they affect a person's behavior? And can they be treated? Examinations of these questions and more take you through neurochemistry, stem cell research, and strategies you can use to reduce your risk.

32 min
Aging Well: Staying Active

10: Aging Well: Staying Active

Get ready for good news to help stave off mental decline! Here, you'll analyze the effects of physical, social, and mental activity on the aging brain. Ample evidence from communities with longer-than-average lifespans shows that getting plenty of exercise and maintaining a vibrant social life can help keep the mind sharp and the spirit young.

34 min
Aging Well: Diet and Stress

11: Aging Well: Diet and Stress

Shift your attention from the effects of physical and social activity to the impact of diet and stress. Explore the benefits of eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and omega-3 fatty acids and low in processed foods-like the Mediterranean, DASH, and MIND diets. Then, delve into the physiological effects of stress, trace the damage it creates throughout the body, and learn how to reduce stress...

30 min
The Science of Immortality

12: The Science of Immortality

Is it possible to live forever? Would we even want to? Conclude the course with a look at cutting-edge research involving gene therapy and stem cells that may help us mitigate or even "cure" the effects of aging. The science is still emerging, but the possibilities are fascinating.

35 min