Project: Research project

Project Details


Changes in intellectual functioning in the aged is a serious public
health concern that has far reaching social and economic
consequences. Recent research has demonstrated that cognitive
changes observed in aging are caused by mental slowing. Therefore,
understanding the causes of cognitive slowing in the aged is
necessary for understanding changes in intellectual ability that
occur with advanced age. Important long-term objectives are to
elucidate the nature and mechanisms of age-related cognitive
slowing; improve our ability to identify brain correlates of
cognitive slowing in the aged; provide needed information for
identifying risk factors predictive of pathologic cognitive
slowing; and distinguish between normal age-related cognitive
slowing and that caused by dementing disorders, such as Alzheimer's
Disease. Specific aims are to (1) determine whether certain kinds
of mental operation are more susceptible to the effects of aging
than others; (2) determine whether certain types of cognitive
processing are exempt from the effects of aging; (3) determine
whether all aged individuals show equivalent amounts of cognitive
slowing; (4) determine to what extent cognitive slowing in the aged
is due to increased processing variability, by formal
(mathematical) modeling of the response characteristics of
individuals; (5) test the major competing models of cognitive
aging, the Generalized Slowing (task-independent) and interactive
(task-specific) models; and (6) provide a conceptual and analytic
framework that can be used by future studies to clarify whether
significant age differences reflect change in a specific cognitive
function or are simply due to a global decline in information
processing speed. Experimental methods that permit the measurement
of the rate of executing basic mental operations will be used in a
sequence of four inter-related studies. Competing models of
cognitive aging and theory-based predictions will be tested using
regression techniques. Data from individual subjects will be
modeled and analyzed using the ex-Gaussian distribution function to
distinguish the effect of aging on mental slowing from its effect
on performance (intra-subject) variability in aged individuals. The
findings from this investigation will advance experimental research
techniques so that they can be used in clinical settings to
characterize and identify changes in cognition that are indicative
of age-associated pathologic conditions, such as Alzheimer's
Disease. The results will provide information needed for
pharmacologic testing and treatment, and to correlate with
physiologic, biochemical and pathologic changes in aging.
Effective start/end date9/10/946/30/00


  • National Institute on Aging
  • National Institute on Aging
  • National Institute on Aging
  • National Institute on Aging


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