Neurotrophic factors and longevity: an evolutionary view of the role of the brain in regulating lifespan

1. Introduction

Studies carried out in the last 25 years have shown that the theoretical maximal lifespan of a given species, 120 years for humans, is strongly correlated with its brain/body size ratio. This is particularly true in mammals, with the exception of bats which, on average, live three times longer than predicted by their brain and body size1. From these comparative anatomical studies the new concept has emerged, that lifespan is largely controlled by the brain. Evolutionary theories provide the key to understand how brain may control lifespan. According to this view, during evolution the control of the body metabolism (including control of energy storage in fat and active research for new energy, i.e. food), has been located in the brain which, as a consequence, has assumed the control of the entire body’s health and resistance to life stresses. Read More