Dallas Aging & Cognition Conference Draws Neuroscientists Worldwide
DALLAS – Jan. 28-30, 2017 – Cognitive neuroscientists from across the globe converged at the Center for Vital Longevity’s fifth biennial Dallas Aging and Cognition Conference (DACC) at the Marriott City Center in downtown Dallas this week.
Made possible with generous support by the UT Dallas Dept. of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, and the Office of the Provost, the two-day conference was a chance for scientists to present and learn about an array of findings that ranged from exploring the biomarkers of successful and unsuccessful aging to the concept of cognitive reserve and how some people’s brains appear to be insulated from the pathological effects of amyloid accumulation. About 250 researchers discussed the latest developments in the cognitive neuroscience of aging, including the imaging of brain pathologies thought to play a crucial role in the onset and development of Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia.
The conference was organized along four themes, with each theme highlighted by an invited keynote speaker as well as other researchers who submitted talks associated with the four categories: “Neural Organization and Connectivity,” with lead speaker Dr. Cheryl Grady, of the University of Toronto; “The Biomarkers of Successful and Unsuccessful Aging,” with lead speaker Dr. William Jagust of the University of California, Berkeley; “Cognitive Reserve,” with lead speaker Dr. Yaakov Stern of Columbia University; and “Neural Stimulation, Cognitive Training and Enrichment,” with lead speaker Dr. Cindy Lustig of the Univ. of Michigan.
CVL Director of Research Dr. Denise Park was organizer of the conference, and noted that she originally established the conference because research in the cognitive neuroscience of aging was advancing rapidly and a forum was needed for researchers to exchange their latest findings on mechanisms and interventions associated with the aging brain and cognition. This year, scientists from over 50 universities attended from universities across the globe including attendees from Germany, South Korea, England, Australia and Canada. There were particularly large groups from the University of Michigan, and Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard University.
“I was so gratified to learn from several of the most outstanding young scientists in the field that they decided to study of the aging brain and cognition after being inspired by the talks they heard at earlier conferences,” Dr. Park said. “Many neuroscientists indicate that they ask new questions, develop new methods and form new collaborations as a result of attending the conference.”
A highlight of DACC 2017 was a Director’s Research Circle dinner that provided an opportunity for local supporters of the Center for Vital Longevity to meet visiting scientists.
The dinner featured a talk by UC Berkeley’s Dr. William Jagust who described new advances in understanding Alzheimer’s Disease by studying rare cases of families who have a heritable form of the disease, as well as new imaging techniques that permit scientists to study the development of amyloid plaques and infiltration of the tau protein on the brains of seemingly healthy adults, providing an understanding of the earlier phases of Alzheimer’s before symptoms of memory loss even appear. Dr. Jagust spoke to a crowd of about 80 DRC members, guests and scientists during the second evening of the conference. The DRC speaker series was founded by the late Dallas architect Bill Booziotis and the Center’s advisory council, and is made up of donors who commit to an annual gift of $2,500 or a minimum donation of $12,500 over five years. Additional support for the conference and dinner this year was also provided by the law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, LLP.
Founded in 2010, CVL is a research center of the University of Texas at Dallas, and is comprised of scientists studying the cognitive neuroscience of aging and ways to maintain cognitive health for life. Researchers at CVL also investigate how to slow cognitive aging and methods for the early detection of age-related neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s. Other research includes studies investigating the cognitive neuroscience of memory, and other fundamental cognitive processes.