Cortical atrophy: symptoms, causes and associated disorders

There are a large number of conditions and pathologies that can cause the degeneration and death of the neurons that make up the various brain structures. When this degeneration affects the cerebral cortex it is known as cortical atrophy.

Throughout this article, we’ll review the main features of cortical atrophy. Likewise, we will review the causes and diseases that cause it, its symptoms, and the brain structures involved.

    What is cortical atrophy?

    Cortical atrophy refers to the process of degeneration or progressive degradation of the cerebral cortex, the origin of which is decrease or decrease in neuronal population what composes it.

    The concept of atrophy has its origin in Latin and its translation refers to a lack of nutrition. Likewise, the etymological basis for the word cortical also comes from Latin and is used to refer to everything relating to the cerebral cortex.

    Considering the origins of the two concepts, it is easier to deduce that cortical atrophy consists of the gradual destruction of neuronal cells that make up the upper areas of the brainSpecifically, the structures that are found in the cerebral cortex, largely due to a decrease or loss of oxygen and nutrient delivery to these areas.

    What are the causes?

    Due to the large number of conditions that can cause degeneration of upper brain structures, cortical atrophy is one of the most studied types of conditions. Among these causes are a wide variety of neurodegenerative diseases, Like Alzheimer’s disease, the main effect of which is the destruction of neurons and, consequently, the loss of brain mass.

    However, there are other causes or risk factors that can promote the development of cortical atrophy. Among them are the consumption of alcohol in high doses, the toxicity of which causes neuronal death, as well as some infections such as HIV or lack of blood supply due to stroke or ischemia.

      What are the symptoms?

      Cortical atrophy, like the diseases that cause it, is characterized by causing a large number of cognitive symptoms in the sufferer. These changes and alterations in cognitive functions are due to the fact that they are managed by these specialized areas of the brain.

      Cognitive functions refer to all those brain activities and processes that allow people to receive, select, collect, store, transform, process and save all the information that comes to us from the medium that does not involve it. Thanks to them, we are able to understand our environment and to interact with it.

      Since neuronal degeneration involves a number of alterations in these functions, the main symptoms are as follows:

      • Problems in memory processes.
      • Changing the language.
      • Loss of orientation skills.
      • Changes in the processes of attention and concentration.
      • Problems in executive functions.
      • When neurodegeneration affects the frontal lobe, it can cause behavioral and personality disorders.

      However, this symptomatology may vary depending on the neurodegenerative disease causing it; be able to vary both the intensity and the quantity of their own symptoms of each clinical picture.

      What regions of the brain does this affect?

      As already mentioned throughout the article, cortical atrophy is the degeneration of neurons in the cerebral cortex. Therefore, it will exert its effects in all the structures that are in it.

      These structures are divided into the different large areas that make up the cerebral lobes. They are as follows.

      1. Frontal lobe

      Located in the anterior area of ​​the brain, the lobe is the youngest of the brain lobes phylogenetically. This means that it is only found in vertebrate species and especially more developed in complex species such as hominids.

      Among its main functions are those of develop and control behavior, as well as linguistic production and abstract thinking. Therefore, all of these neurodegenerative diseases that affect this area can seriously compromise the proper functioning of these brain tasks.

        2. Parietal lobe

        The parietal lobes are located in the upper part of the skull. Neural atrophy in this region causes severe alterations in the ability to integrate sensory information, As well as to understand it and make sense of it.

        3. Occipital lobe

        This third lobe is located at the back of the brain. In addition, it is the main one responsible for receiving and transmitting visual information that arrives from the rest of the visual structures.

        4. Temporal lobe

        Finally, the temporal lobe is located in the lower part of the brain. Any type of injury or atrophy in this area usually causes the most characteristic symptoms of neurodegenerative diseases, because these are all those related to memory and thought processes.

        What diseases is it linked to?

        Although there are many other causes, such as alcoholism or ischemic attacks, which can cause the degeneration and destruction of neurons in the cerebral cortex; the main causes of this atrophy are neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Pick’s disease or Lewy body dementia.

        1. Alzheimer’s disease

        Senile Alzheimer’s dementia is a neurodegenerative condition in which the person undergoes an alteration in memory processes, As well as other mental abilities, which manifest themselves in cognitive and behavioral symptoms.

          2. Pick’s disease

          Pick’s disease is a strange dementia similar to Alzheimer’s disease caused by a buildup of Pick bodies in neurons in the brain. The main symptoms are related to behavioral disturbances such as compulsive and repetitive behaviors, or to emotional disturbances such as sudden mood swings and loss of expression of emotions.

          3. Dementia caused by Lewy bodies

          This latter type of neurodegenerative disease shares a large number of symptoms with other conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. However, despite the presentation of motor, behavioral and memory symptoms typical of these dementias, in Lewy body dementia the patient experiences fluctuation in symptom intensity. accompanied by extremely realistic visual hallucinations.

            Differences with posterior cortical atrophy

            Unlike the cortical atrophy mentioned throughout the article, posterior cortical atrophy has a much earlier age of onsetThe first symptoms can appear between the ages of 50 and 60.

            In addition, this neurodegenerative condition is distinguished by exhibiting particularly visual symptoms. These symptoms include an impaired ability to understand the environment around the person, as well as problems with the perception of precise and specific objects found in the patient’s visual field. For example, the person is completely unable to see or find the keys that are in front of them.

            With the development of posterior cortical atrophy, the person begins to experience the behavioral and cognitive symptoms typical of other atrophies, but with the added inconvenience that they suffer at a much earlier age.

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