Talks in Australia Focus on Memory and Aging

Center Co-director Michael Rugg will be giving a series of invited talks in Australia at the end of the month, including a stop at the 12th annual International Conference on Cognitive Neuroscience (ICON) in Brisbane, Australia on July 30, where he will discuss results from recent functional magnetic resonance imaging studies.

The title of Dr. Rugg’s talk is: “The effects of age on episodic memory – what stays up and what goes down?” In the talk, Dr. Rugg will discuss which of the processes supporting memory differ with age, and which show age-related declines.

Describing results from a recently completed study of young, middle-aged, and older people, he will argue that age-related decline in memory function is largely attributable to changes in our ability to “encode” information into memory, rather than changes in our ability to retrieve information once it has been learned. He will also present findings showing that, regardless of age, neural activity at the time of both encoding and retrieval is predictive of how good someone’s memory is.

“Variance in memory performance at all ages can be predicted by variance in the neural activity associated with these different processes,” Dr. Rugg says.

Dr. Rugg’s current work is aimed at understanding how age-related changes in the brain’s structure and function affect cognitive abilities, both in healthy people and those at risk of age-related diseases such as Alzheimer's.

His ICON talk is just one stop among others; Dr. Rugg is also speaking at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, and at Sydney University. More information on ICON 2014 can be found here.

Separately, Dr. Ian McDonough will be presenting a poster at the ICON conference titled, “Structural and functional correlates of cognitive ability differ across the adult lifespan.”

Dr. McDonough’s research builds on the established principle that people who do well in one cognitive domain such as memory, also perform well in many other domains, thus giving rise to an underlying ability shared across domains.

One key finding is that older adults with higher ability and strong memories have brains that essentially look like young brains; they have less cortical thinning and more efficient brain activity.

His latest research pinpoints the brain regions associated with this general cognitive ability and how these brain regions might differ throughout the lifespan.

“By understanding age-related declines in these key brain regions, future studies can target these brain regions via behavioral or pharmaceutical interventions that ideally support cognition across a variety of domains,” Dr. McDonough says.