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What are the Different Types of Brain Atrophy?

By Nicole Long
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Brain atrophy, also referred to as cerebral atrophy, refers to the reduction in the size of the brain. Several conditions can cause a brain to atrophy, including diseases and aging. The various types of cerebral atrophy include those classified as generalized and those classified as focal.

Generalized brain atrophy refers to a shrinkage of the entire brain. Physicians see this in aging patients as patients begin to lose neurons and brain cells, resulting in the reduced weight and size of the brain. In addition to the loss of neurons over time, neurons themselves can reduce in size and shrink, also resulting in cerebral atrophy.

Theories exist that can help delay or reduce the impact of aging on this condition. This includes using mental exercises to help the brain maintain and replace networks of neurons. Ongoing research will need to be done to see if medication can help prevent generalized cerebral atrophy due to aging.

Other diseases can lead to generalized brain atrophy. Diseases that cause damage to the various elements of the brain, such as the brain cells, neurons, and axons, may lead to cerebral atrophy. This includes diseases such as multiple sclerosis, encephalitis, and neurosyphilis.

Aside from generalized cerebral atrophy, diseases often associated with aging and various medical conditions can lead to focal brain atrophy. Focal atrophy occurs in a specific region of the brain. The affected brain area associated with focal atrophy results in the loss or decrease in functions controlled by that specific area of the brain.

Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are two of the diseases associated with aging that can be considered a form of focal cerebral atrophy. Those diagnosed with these diseases may find shrinkage in specific lobes of the brain, such as the temporal and parietal lobes in cases of Alzheimer’s disease, and atrophy can spread to other areas of the brain. Atrophy resulting from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia can lead to problems with memory, intellectual function, and the ability to learn.

Focal atrophy can occur from a variety of sudden conditions. Strokes are one such possibility. With a stroke, the interruption of blood supply to a specific part of the brain results in brain cell loss and cerebral atrophy. The severity of atrophy related to a stroke depends on the severity of the stroke and treatment received. Other possibilities include brain trauma from an accident or blow to the head, and tumors.

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Discussion Comments
By anon980594 — On Dec 05, 2014

Certain B vitamins can slow the progression of the disease. Also look up the word homocysteine and how it relates to brain atrophy.

All I can say is that usually a lot more information can be found if you're willing to search for it. Look at other sources like medical journals, periodicals, published studies, medical textbooks even forums. Getting a second or even third and fourth opinion could also help.

Look for medical help outside your country of origin as your last resort.

By irontoenail — On Aug 16, 2012

@browncoat - It's true, my grandfather had a severe stroke when I was a child and ended up bed bound for weeks and the doctors didn't think he'd ever be able to walk or recognize anyone again.

My father is a physiotherapist and he went to my grandfather and worked with him, gently, for 24 hours a day, until my grandfather came back to us. He wasn't completely the same and still suffered from memory lapses and so forth, but his brain had somehow been coaxed into forming new connections, even though he was quite elderly by that age.

This might not be true for everyone, but in my opinion, where there is life (and patience, and love) there is hope.

By browncoat — On Aug 15, 2012

@anon284047 - I'm sorry about your daughter. I'm definitely not an expert or a doctor, and you should ask for more information about it from your doctor. Go and get a second opinion if you need to, because even the best doctors can sometimes get it wrong.

But, there generally isn't a cure for brain atrophy. There are treatments that can delay, or possibly even halt the advance of the condition, but the parts of the brain that have atrophied are gone for good.

However, the brain is an amazing organ, capable of adapting to extreme injuries. Your daughter might still live a normal life. It really depends on what her whole diagnosis is, since atrophy of the brain is more of a symptom, rather than a disease.

My best wishes to you and your family.

By anon284047 — On Aug 07, 2012

My daughter was diagnosed today with brain atrophy. Is there treatment or hope?

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