Cognitive Neuroscience of Aging: Linking Cognitive and Cerebral Aging

By Roberto Cabeza; Lars Nyberg et al. | Go to book overview

4
Electrophysiological and Optical
Measures of Cognitive Aging

Monica Fabiani

Gabriele Gratton

As exemplified by the first Symposium on Neuroscience, Aging, and Cognition, of which this book is an outcome, the last decade has seen an explosion of research in the cognitive neuroscience of aging. Human aging is characterized by changes in cognition within a context of changes in both structural and functional anatomy. The biggest challenge facing researchers in this area is to understand the relationships among cognitive, anatomical, and physiological changes and to reconcile discrepancies between these levels of analysis. The availability of a number of imaging methods that allow for the noninvasive study of brain function during the performance of cognitive tasks has allowed investigators to explore a number of questions that previously could only be tackled indirectly.

In this chapter, we review two of these methods (optical brain imaging and electrophysiology) in the context of other available methodologies as they apply to aging research. Both of these methods emphasize the temporal aspects of the brain phenomena underlying cognition and thus allow for a closer parallel with cognitive studies using a mental chronometry approach to the study of aging. However, these two methods differ in the amount of localization information they provide, with electrophysiological methods yielding a coarser spatial description of brain activity and optical imaging meshing temporal and spatial information at a finer level. In fact, the spatial resolution of optical imaging may be close to that reached with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) or positron emission tomography (PET), especially when data from a number of subjects are combined, which leads to a loss of resolution for all techniques.


Neuronal and Hemodynamic Measures of Brain Function

There are two general classes of noninvasive methods that are widely available for human brain research. Hemodynamic/metabolic methods, such has 15O-PET and,

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