The role of reorganisation and plasticity in age-related cognitive changes. Although many cognitive functions decline as we age (eg working memory, fluid intelligence), others are preserved (eg language comprehension). This pattern of declines and preservations is seen in the context of widespread changes in the brain with age. Why do some cognitive functions decline while others are preserved? Studies of the relationship between age-related changes in cognition and neural structure and function are underway in the CamCAN (Cambridge Centre for Ageing and Neuroscience, www.cam-can.com) project. This is a population-representative cohort of 700 healthy people aged 18-88 who undergo a large number of hypothesis-driven cognitive tests of attention and cognitive control, language, memory, and emotion, and for whom we also have a variety of neural (both structural and functional [fMRI and MEG]) and life-style data. This extraordinarily rich data-set provides the basis for investigations into how cognitive functions are preserved as we age, and the roles played by neural network reorganisation and functional plasticity. The CamCan data-sets enable us to carry out a variety of multi-dimensional analyses combining a variety of neural and cognitive measures using novel analytical methods to understand the relationship between brain, neural function and cognition across the adult life-span. The CamCan data-set will allow students to work on a wide variety of key issues in aging, which will be guided by the supervisor.
Opportunities in the Centre for Speech, Language and the Brain (CSLB) and in the CamCAN project more generally include training in several neuroimaging methods including structural MR, DTI including fractional anisotrophy and tractography, and fMRI. CSLB and CamCAN personnel include researchers with expertise in cognitive psychology, cognitive neuroscience, neuroimaging, and epidemiology, and come from both within the University of Cambridge and related institutes (MRC-CBSU). In sum, the studentship will combine existing resources, training facilities, and interdisciplinary collaborations to provide training in a key area of research on ageing.