• The Center mourns the loss of a dear friend and tireless CVL supporter. click here

  • CVL councilmember and benefactor’s life remembered in the Dallas Morning here

  • Aging-themed issue of Nautilus Magazine explores cognitive benefits of learning a new game such as chess, cites here

  • ‘Fitizen’ group at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas learns about research at CVL. click here

  • CVL research published in JoN finds that some memories persist in the face of strong interference. click here

  • Dr. Sara Festini’s research probes busyness levels and cognitive here

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CVl Annual Review

CVl Annual Review

Charting Our Progress is CVL’s annual review, with archives available

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Center for Vital Longevity Receives Over $5 Million for Aging Studies

Oct. 4, 2018

Researchers at the Center for Vital Longevity at The University of Texas at Dallas recently received three federal grants totaling more than $5 million to start new projects or continue existing studies on the cognitive neuroscience of aging.

“These recent awards are a very welcome addition to the federal funding held by the center,” said Dr. Michael Rugg, Distinguished Chair in Behavioral and Brain Sciences and center director. “They will support important and urgently needed research and are a testimony to the talents of my colleagues and to the high quality of their research programs.”

Dr. Denise Park, Distinguished University Chair in Behavioral and Brain Sciences and director of research and the founder of the center, was awarded $1.2 million from the National Institute on Aging (NIA) for an ongoing project aimed at determining whether individuals can slow the rate at which their minds and brains age. Park initiated the Synapse Project eight years ago with NIA funding.

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Separating Fact from Fiction in Preventing Alzheimer’s

June 17, 2018 – The Washington Post
Busting 5 Myths about Alzheimer’s Disease

Dr. Denise Park takes on the top five myths about Alzheimer’s Disease, in her Washington Post perspective.

Study Suggests Ties Between Socioeconomic Status and Adult Brain

May 14, 2018

Research has shown that a developing child’s brain structure and function can be adversely affected when the child is raised in an environment lacking adequate education, nutrition and access to health care.

While the impact of such an environment on children is relatively well understood, a new study from The University of Texas at Dallas examines an effect that is not so clear — the relationship of socioeconomic status (SES) to brain function and anatomy in adults. The study, led by researchers at the Center for Vital Longevity at UT Dallas, found that the adult brain may actually be sensitive to social and economic factors.

“We know that socioeconomic status influences the structure of the brain in childhood and older age, but there’s been a gap in the research. We wanted to see if there were relationships between SES and the brain across a wider range of adulthood,” said Dr. Gagan Wig, assistant professor in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences at UT Dallas and corresponding author of the study published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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How Income & Other Factors May Affect the Brain

May 15, 2018 – The Atlantic Magazine
Dr. Gagan Wig Discusses How Lifelong Experiences and Socioeconomic Status May ‘Sculpt’ the Brain

Work published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences featured in the Atlantic Magazine.

Subjective Memory Could Play a Predictive Role in Signaling Cognitive Decline

April 30, 2018

New research from the Center for Vital Longevity (CVL) at The University of Texas at Dallas suggests that subjective complaints about poor memory performance, especially in people over 60, could be a useful early marker for the onset of mild cognitive decline, which sometimes foreshadows Alzheimer’s disease.

Subjective memory is a person’s unscientific self-evaluation of how good his or her memory is, and whether, in that person’s opinion, there has been any worsening of memory through age. While some changes may be undetectable to others and are often too subtle to register on cognitive tests, the person subjectively believes that memory is slipping.

Published recently in Psychology and Aging, the research from Dr. Karen Rodrigue’s lab at CVL examined subjective memory complaints in nearly 200 healthy adults, ages 20 to 94. Previous studies suggest that subjective memory complaints are not necessarily indicative of cognitive decline, and may stem from underlying conditions such as anxiety and depression, which have been shown to impede memory.

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How Technology Can Help or Hurt Brain Performance

April 15, 2018 – KLIF 570 AM
Center Director Dr. Michael Rugg Speaks about “False Memories” and the Impact of “Too Much” Technology on Attention and Memory

On Scott Murray’s Sunday show, CVL also promotes upcoming public lecture featuring Dr. Adam Gazzaley.

Brain Activity Study Offers Potential Insight into Alzheimer’s Disease

April 16, 2018

Slightly elevated beta-amyloid levels in the brain are associated with increased activity in certain brain regions, according to a new study from the Center for Vital Longevity (CVL) at The University of Texas at Dallas.

But that increase in activity might not be such a positive thing. The results indicate that the brains of these individuals may be working harder or recruiting more cognitive resources to complete tasks than those with lower levels of beta-amyloid, the main component of amyloid plaques, the study authors said.

The new research, published in the journal NeuroImage, offers a window into when these increasing levels of beta-amyloid, widely known as a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, might reach tipping points in the brain, when regions crucial to memory begin behaving differently. Such points might foreshadow important milestones in the disease process. …

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Aging Mind Foundation Plans Two Winter Benefits

Dec. 6, 2017 – Dallas Morning News
Fourth Annual Aging Mind Foundation Gala is Set for Feb. 24 at the Joule

Center for Vital Longevity is a previous recipient of Aging Mind funding.

Scientists Get $15 Million in NIH Grants for Brain, Pain, Learning Studies

Dec. 14, 2017

Dr. Denise Park, director of research at the Center for Vital Longevity (CVL), received a five-year, $5.7 million grant from the NIH’s National Institute on Aging to extend the Dallas Lifespan Brain Study into a second decade. This project, which involves studying the same people over a prolonged period, will provide a window into how healthy brains transition into disease, and how early in the lifespan the markers of Alzheimer’s disease can be detected. The project also may yield information about what mechanisms underlie the maintenance of a healthy mind. The work is a collaboration between UT Dallas and UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers.

“We must study the same people for a prolonged period to understand how healthy brains maintain their resilience and vitality as well as how initially healthy brains transition to pathology,” said Park, who holds the Distinguished University Chair in Behavioral and Brain Sciences. “This third wave of data collection is perhaps the most exciting scientifically, as we will see clearly who has maintained cognitive function over a prolonged period, as well as those who are experiencing precipitous cognitive decline.”

Also at CVL, Dr. Kristen Kennedy, head of the Neuroimaging of Aging and Cognition Lab, was awarded more than $2.5 million from the National Institute on Aging to complete her work on the individual factors that influence brain structure, function and cognition over time …

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Can Video-Game Training Improve Cognition? Depends on the Game

Oct. 3, 2017 – Science Daily
The Type of Video Game Can Affect the Cognitive Benefit of Video Game Training

Dr. Chandramallika Basak explains the effects of two different types of games in Science Daily.

Researchers Calculating Alzheimer’s Effects

Sept. 20, 2017 – Dallas Innovates
Degraded Connections in Some Parts of the Brain Associated with Decreased Ability to do Financial Calculations

Research by Dr. Kristen Kennedy and David Hoagey originally published in Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Study: Degraded Connections in the Brain Impairs Financial Ability

Sept. 14, 2017

A new study from the Center for Vital Longevity at The University of Texas at Dallas is among the first to investigate how degraded connections in certain parts of the adult brain might affect the ability to perform the financial calculations that are vital to everyday life among older adults.

The results, published in the most recent issue of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, relied on imaging the white matter connections within the brain and measuring how intact the connections are. Researchers found a correlation between the integrity of white matter — the tracts that allow communication between different brain regions — and the ability to calculate finances.

“As we age, we tend to see a degradation of the connective fibers that wire the brain, much like a vacuum cleaner cord that has been run over too much with years of housecleaning,” said Dr. Kristen Kennedy, senior author of the paper and assistant professor at the center and the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences. “The insulation of the cord gets worn, and the electrical signal may not be conducted as well, or as rapidly. It’s a similar principle with conduction velocity across white matter brain connections.” …

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Doing What You Can to Improve Memory

Sept. 10, 2017 – KLIF 570 AM
Scott Murray’s “Relationship Roundtable”: Good Advice for Memory & Learning with Dr. Michael Rugg

Center Director joins Scott Murray’s Sunday radio show for segment on memory.

The Amazing Fertility of the Older Mind

August 28, 2017 – BBC News
It’s never too late to learn – if you go about it in the right way

Dr. Denise Park speaks about the benefits of getting out of your cognitive comfort zone.

Annual BvB Game a Success with Proceeds Benefiting CVL, Among Others

August 13, 2017 – Dallas Observer
Brunettes Beat Blondes This Year, But All for a Good Cause

After a competitive first half, the “Bru Crew” pulled away for their fourth straight victory. Visit the Dallas Observer’s photo gallery.

The Inspiration of a Girl’s Grandparents Lives at the Cotton Bowl

August 7, 2017 – MySweetCharity
Game on Saturday to Raise Money for Research at CVL

D Magazine blog features personal story of 20-something who finds way to raise research funding for Alzheimer’s. CVL among beneficiaries of this year’s effort.

How Blondes & Brunettes Tackle Alzheimer’s One Powder-puff Flag at a Time

July 20, 2017 – DMN MEDIA
Center for Vital Longevity and UT Southwestern Among Awardees of Research Grants
10th annual BvB (formerly Blondes vs. Brunettes) Dallas Powder-Puff Football Game will benefit CVL among others.

Gene Subtly Alters Brain Network Activity With Age

July 1, 2017 – ALZ FORUM
CVL Research Team Publishes News Results in Journal of Neuroscience
Alzheimer’s Forum features CVL research on how APOE4 affects brain function and increases risk of memory loss.

Wig Lab Awarded Funding to Advance Study of Aging Brain Networks

DALLAS – Sept. 7, 2016 – The James S. McDonnell Foundation has chosen Dr. Gagan Wig, from the Center for Vital Longevity at UT Dallas, to receive a 2016 Understanding Human Cognition Scholar Award.

Consisting of $600,000 over six years, the award is geared toward researchers who are studying how neural systems support cognitive functions and how cognitive systems are related to observable behavior. Unlike most other funding organizations, the McDonnell Foundation requires applicants first be nominated to apply for the award. Nomination for this prestigious award is conducted by an anonymous group of international experts in the field of cognition and neuroscience who recognize the potential value of the nominee’s research. Nominees must then submit a proposal for consideration for funding, which is reviewed by an expert scientific panel.

Of the twenty nominees, Dr. Wig, along with seven other researchers from institutions around the world, including institutions such as Harvard University, Stanford University and Princeton University, were selected for the award.

With the help of this funding, Dr. Wig aims to establish a framework for studying age-related cognitive decline from a complex networks perspective. So far, according to Dr. Wig, researchers have not been able to deeply explore age-related cognitive decline and maintenance from a network-based perspective, for lack of a formal network-analysis approach toward understanding the healthy aging brain and how cognitive abilities change as we age. Previous work in the field has largely focused on describing differences in function at the level of activity in separate brain areas without delving into macro-level connections.

Using new tools to measure the interconnectivity and organization in the brain is a primary aim of Dr. Wig’s current work. His lab has been using an area of mathematics called graph theory to characterize how brain networks are organized and function in both healthy and unhealthy individuals. This approach has also been used to study social media networks, such as Facebook, the flow of public transportation, disease transmission, and even outbreaks of contagion.

“Being recognized and selected by the Foundation is extremely gratifying,” Dr. Wig said. “The Foundation’s tremendous support will give our work a critical boost in understanding how the very complex and interconnected systems of the human brain function and change with increasing age, and how these changes relate to changes in cognitive abilities such as memory and attention.”

Founded in 2010, the Center for Vital Longevity (CVL) is a research center of the University of Texas at Dallas, with 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 are developing methods for the early detection of age-related neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s Disease.


Alzheimer’s Risk Gene and its Potential Impact on Brain Performance

June 28, 2017 – IBT NEWS
Drs. Chris Foster and Karen Rodrigue Highlight Characteristics of APOE4
The genetic variant is associated with a 10 to 12 fold increase in the risk for Alzheimer’s Disease