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The Aging Mind: Opportunities in Cognitive Research
tioning, and relating neural changes to changes in cognitive functioning and behavior.
Chapter 3 focuses on cognition in context. It discusses recent developments in understanding how behavioral, social, cultural, and technological contexts shape the content, structure, and process of cognition throughout the life cycle, including cultural-experiential influences on brain development. It recommends a major research initiative to understand the aging mind in relation to the neurobiological effects of life experience and the effects of cultural difference and cultural and behavioral supports on the aging mind. The initiative would also investigate possibilities for maintaining cognitive functioning by changing life experience or providing supportive technologies.
Chapter 4 is concerned with the structure of the aging mind. It discusses the major interindividual differences in rates and patterns of change in cognitive content, structure, and process during aging and recommends a major research initiative to specify and explain these patterns in relation to age-related changes in the brain, sensory and motor systems, nonneurological diseases, and life experiences that may predispose toward or protect against cognitive decline. The chapter discusses the value of brain-imaging technology for contributing to the needed understanding; the need to develop behavioral indicators that are closely associated with the action of particular neural circuits; and the potential for applying concepts and methods from other areas of cognitive research, particularly cognitive development in early life, to studying the dynamics of cognitive aging.
Chapter 5 discusses implementation of the research initiatives. It addresses the investments needed to build the interdisciplinary literacy and collaborations needed to advance knowledge at the conjunction of established fields and research traditions; to improve the available stock of longitudinal data on cognitive aging; and to develop other kinds of infrastructure that are of broad use to the health sciences as well as essential for understanding the aging mind.
The appendixes include signed papers commissioned by the committee to provide more detailed accounts of the current state of research in fields that we see as leading to exciting advances and to speculate about possible directions in these fields. Although these papers are not the work of the committee, we consider them to be useful aids to thinking about how to move cognitive aging research in several of the directions we recommend.