Research infrastructure. Infrastructure is needed in the form of access to aged animals for research; a large longitudinal database on human cognitive aging; and improved capacity for using brain imaging to study the aging mind.

The NIA should support the infrastructure for research on cognitive aging in the following ways:

5a. The NIA should help support the maintenance of colonies of pathogen-free aged animals (including primates, rats, and mice) in regional centers.

5b. The NIA should undertake a major effort to expand or develop large-scale longitudinal studies of cognitive aging. The studies should cover the range of variation in the population and should support research aimed at understanding the relationships among neural, cognitive, behavioral, sensory-motor, health, and life experience variables as they affect cognitive aging. Other institutes of the National Institutes of Health should be invited to cooperate in this effort, as they may benefit from the type of comprehensive longitudinal research being developed.

The NIA and cooperating institutes should engage in structured discussions with the research community, perhaps through a series of workshops, to address the problems involved in using resources effectively to create a broadly useful base of longitudinal data on cognitive function and its neural, behavioral, and experiential correlates.

5c. The NIA should support the capacity for using brain imaging data in the following ways:

  • supporting a consensus conference to develop standard procedures for collecting and reporting human brain imaging data, specifically including MRI data, on brain-behavior relationships in aging; and

  • working with other institutes at the National Institutes of Health to establish a monkey brain imaging facility with fMRI capability at the National Institutes of Health and to support a few similar centers elsewhere.

Collaboration between the NIA and other agencies. Several of the above recommendations are best advanced through collaborations involving the NIA and other agencies. For example, investments in animal colonies, improved MRI capabilities, and longitudinal research will be widely beneficial, and research on adaptive technology for aging will also help nonaged disabled populations.

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