Cognitive Neuroscience of Aging: Linking Cognitive and Cerebral Aging

Cognitive Neuroscience of Aging: Linking Cognitive and Cerebral Aging

Cognitive Neuroscience of Aging: Linking Cognitive and Cerebral Aging

Cognitive Neuroscience of Aging: Linking Cognitive and Cerebral Aging

Synopsis

Until very recently, our knowledge about the neural basis of cognitive aging was based on two disciplines that had very little contact with each other. Whereas the neuroscience of aging investigated the effects of aging on the brain independently of age-related changes in cognition, thecognitive psychology of aging investigated the effects of aging on cognition independently of age-related changes in the brain. The lack of communication between these two disciplines is currently being addressed by an increasing number of studies that focus on the relationships between cognitiveaging and cerebral aging. This rapidly growing body of research has come to constitute a new discipline, which may be called cognitive neuroscience of aging. The goal of Cognitive Neuroscience of Aging is to introduce the reader to this new discipline at a level that is useful to both professionalsand students in the domains of cognitive neuroscience, cognitive psychology, neuroscience, neuropsychology, neurology, and other, related areas. This book is divided into four main sections. The first section describes noninvasive measures of cerebral aging, including structural (e.g., volumetric MRI), chemical (e.g., dopamine PET), electrophysiological (e.g., ERPs), and hemodynamic (e.g., fMRI), and discusses how they can be linked tobehavioral measures of cognitive aging. The second section reviews evidence for the effects of aging on neural activity during different cognitive functions, including perception and attention, imagery, working memory, long-term memory, and prospective memory. The third section focuses on clinicaland applied topics, such as the distinction between healthy aging and Alzheimers disease and the use of cognitive training to ameliorate age-related cognitive decline. The last section describes theories that relate cognitive and cerebral aging, including models accounting for functionalneuroimaging evidence and models supported by computer simulations. Taken together, the chapters in this volume provide the first unified and comprehensive overview of the new discipline of cognitive neuroscience of aging.

Excerpt

Roberto Cabeza Lars Nyberg Denise C. Park

Until recently, the cognitive and neural mechanisms of age-related changes in cognition were usually studied independently of each other. On one hand, studies in the domain of cognitive psychology of aging investigated the effects of aging on behavioral measures of cognition and characterized a variety of age-related deficits in memory, attention, and the like. On the other hand, studies in the domain of neuroscience of aging investigated the effects of aging on the anatomy and physiology of the brain and described forms of age-related neural decline, such as cerebral atrophy and synaptic loss. Although it is reasonable to assume that cognitive aging is largely a consequence of cerebral aging, the relationships between these two phenomena are still largely unknown. Fortunately, this void is being rapidly resolved by studies focusing on the relationships between the effects of aging on the cognition and on the brain. This group of studies constitutes the new discipline of cognitive neuroscience of aging (CNA). Although CNA has a long past, only lately has it achieved the critical mass to be considered an autonomous discipline. The main goal of this book is to provide an introduction to this exciting new field.

To describe the issues addressed by CNA, it is useful to start with a simple model that includes the basic components of the problem. In the model in figure 1.1, aging is assumed to affect structures and processes both in the brain and regarding cognition. Although artificial, the distinctions between brain and cognition and between structures and processes are useful for conceptual purposes. Likewise, even though any change in cognition implies a change in the brain, it is useful to distinguish between neurogenic and psychogenic effects. Neurogenic effects (solid arrows in figure 1.1) occur when a change in the brain causes a change in cognition. For example, age-related atrophy of prefrontal gray matter may lead to decline in work-

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