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There is little doubt that the brain changes with time, and all research in psychiatry is predicated on holding age constant in comparing groups of patients or estimating the effect sizes of causal factors. Nevertheless, we know relatively little about the mechanisms that are responsible for translating time into ageing. We try after an overview of the principal mechanisms involved in biological ageing, to summarise the age-related changes observable in brains in vivo and to demonstrate the types of investigations that may cast light on such mechanisms in the future. A useful heuristic device to order the multiple potential causes of ageing is the chronic stress – allostatic load model widely employed in epidemiology, public health medicine and health psychology. In vivo imaging provides a method to test the translation of intermediate stress markers, such as vascular risk, metabolic syndrome or allostatic load, into predictors of age related brain changes.



Book title

New Oxford Textbook of Psychiatry


Oxford University Press

Publication Date



170 - 182