This chapter utilizes genomic concepts and evolutionary perspectives to further understand the possible links between typical brain aging and neurodegenerative diseases, focusing on the two most prevalent of these: Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease. Aging is the major risk factor for these neurodegenerative diseases. Researching the evolutionary and molecular underpinnings of aging helps to reveal elements of the typical aging process that leave individuals more vulnerable to neurodegenerative pathologies. Very little is known about the prevalence and susceptibility of neurodegenerative diseases in nonhuman species, as only a few individuals have been observed with these neuropathologies. However, several studies have investigated the evolution of lifespan, which is closely connected with brain size in mammals, and insights can be drawn from these to enrich our understanding of neurodegeneration. This chapter explores the relationship between the typical aging process and the events in neurodegeneration. First, we examined how age-related processes can increase susceptibility to neurodegenerative diseases. Second, we assessed to what extent neurodegeneration is an accelerated form of aging. We found that while at the phenotypic level both neurodegenerative diseases and the typical aging process share some characteristics, at the molecular level they show some distinctions in their profiles, such as variation in genes and gene expression. Furthermore, neurodegeneration of the brain is associated with an earlier onset of cellular, molecular, and structural age-related changes. In conclusion, a more integrative view of the aging process, both from a molecular and an evolutionary perspective, may increase our understanding of neurodegenerative diseases.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165-215
Number of pages51
JournalProgress in Brain Research
Early online date3 Feb 2023
Publication statusPublished - 24 Feb 2023


  • Aging
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Brain mass
  • Dementia
  • Evolutionary biology
  • Genomics
  • Hominin fossils
  • Neurodegeneration
  • Neurodegenerative diseases
  • Parkinson's disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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