We have found the strongest evidence yet that older people can recruit additional brain regions to help perform complex tasks, possibly compensating for age-related changes elsewhere.
Brain networks measured by fMRI become less segregated with age, and less segregation is associated with poorer cognition, even after adjusting for age. However, contrary to expectations, segregation does not mediate the positive effect of mid-life activities on late life cognition.
We found that strong brain connections, especially those supported by white matter, are crucial for maintaining cognitive function. As we grow older, these connections become even more important, particularly for complex thinking.
Visual short-term memory – the ability to hold information in mind over a short period – declines with age. We show that connections within the visual and attention networks increase as people hold more information in mind, but age negatively affects the ability to increase connectivity as the task gets harder.
We show there are at least three distinct aspects of cardiovascular health, and one of these – pulse pressure (systolic – diastolic blood pressure) – is uniquely associated with cognitive decline. This association was stronger for older adults, such that older individuals with higher pulse pressure had greater cognitive decline. Thus maintaining low pulse pressure may help to preserve cognitive function into old age.
Fluid intelligence, the ability to solve novel problems, is essential for effective behaviour but declines steeply with age. We show that this is partly explained by reduced activity in frontoparietal brain regions; however, the link between brain activity and intelligence is buffered by engaging in a wide variety of regular physical activities, which supports exercise as a potential lifestyle factor to help promote successful aging.
Reduction in blood supply to the brain is a hallmark of dementia, but affects the brain and cognition in healthy ageing too. Using MRI to measure the brain’s perfusion at rest, we show that maintaining good cerebral perfusion into old age supports brain function during a challenging cognitive task.
We know that a special form of adrenaline is important for controlling behaviour, but not how. Here, we used MRI to measure the bit of the brain that makes the adrenaline, and the activity of the brain when inhibiting actions. We show that the ability to control behaviour is related to the connectivity in the frontal lobe of the brain, which is itself regulated by the ability to make adrenaline
Aging is associated with an increase in well-being and improved emotion regulation despite widespread cognitive decline. Using an emotion-regulation task and structural MRI data, we show the robust age-related increases in positivity is associated with integrity of key brain regions.