Common brain disorders appear to be associated with accelerated brain aging, according to a new Finnish study.

The researchers analyzed nearly 6,000 magnetic resonance brain images from individuals who had a brain disorder or disease. They compared these results with brain scans of nearly 4,000 of healthy individuals. Accelerated brain aging was found in participants who had memory disorders, mild cognitive impairment, multiple sclerosis and schizophrenia, reported Hilkka Soininen, Ph.D., from the University of Eastern Finland.  

The difference between MRI-estimated and chronological brain age is known as the brain age gap. People with dementia had the largest brain age gap (four years) when compared to healthy controls of the same age. In addition, premature aging occurred in different brain regions depending on the disorder. For example, schizophrenia was associated with accelerated aging of the frontal lobe, major depressive disorder was linked to accelerated aging of the temporal lobe, and dementia and MS were tied to accelerated aging of subcortical regions.

The brain age gap also correlated with disease-related functional decline, wrote Soininen. In people with dementia, for example, the larger the brain age gap, the lower their standardized cognitive function test scores.

The findings were reported in Nature Neuroscience.