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Study Explores How Changes in Healthy Brain Structure Affect Cognition

By | Stephen Fontenot |

As the human brain ages, the neural circuits that allow its different parts to communicate with each other gradually wear down, even in healthy adults.

Scientists at The University of Texas at Dallas are using imaging techniques to investigate this process to understand better how it relates to cognitive decline in healthy individuals across the lifespan.

“We’re trying to figure out what’s breaking down in the brain that yields this cognitive decline as we get older, even if we’re healthy,” said Dr. Kristen Kennedy, associate professor of psychology in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences and in UT Dallas’ Center for Vital Longevity. “Everything we do in our lab is adding pieces to that puzzle.”

In a study published online June 7 and in the October issue of Neurobiology of Aging, principal investigator Kennedy and her colleagues describe how they used a pair of imaging techniques to tie the degradation of circuitry in one region of the brain to reduced efficiency in executive functions. The study included 169 healthy human subjects between the ages of 20 and 94.

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