Understanding the complex role of brain characteristics in the mechanisms supporting cognitive health or leading to cognitive decline in old age is of critical importance. Towards this goal, we use multi-parametric MRI in studies of older adults to a) establish the array of brain characteristics integral to cognitive function in old age, b) uncover how these brain characteristics are influenced by genetic, demographic, lifestyle, neuropathologic and clinical factors, and c) probe brain integrity in preclinical stages of age-related diseases. Such investigations on older adults are fundamental to the development of strategies for the prevention of cognitive impairment.
- We performed the first artifact-free DTI study of the medial temporal lobes in Alzheimer's disease and mild cognitive impairment, and demonstrated the sensitivity of the technique (2007).
- We have shown that higher levels of systemic inflammation are associated with lower structural integrity in the corpus callosum of non-demented older adults, and this may partially explain the lower higher-order visual cognition in aging.
- We have discovered functional connectivity differences between older adults with and without MCI using resting-state fMRI.
- We have demonstrated that more frequent cognitive activity in late life is related to higher diffusion anisotropy in a number of white matter regions, and that the association of late life cognitive activity with cognition may be partially mediated by brain diffusion characteristics.
- We have shown that higher levels of physical activity may reduce the effect of WMH burden on motor function in healthy older adults.
- We have demonstrated that in cognitively unimpaired older adults, vitamin D intake is associated with cortical thickness in regions vulnerable to Alzheimer's.