for encouraging the early stages of research on other topics that are likely to require unusual interdisciplinary collaborations (e.g., the neurobiology of training and practice). Appendix D offers a detailed discussion of the need for interdisciplinary collaboration on research on technological support, the benefits that may be gained, and some of the challenges.

In certain areas it may be worthwhile to hold competitions for small research teams or centers that would bring together cognitive scientists, behavioral scientists, and neuroscientists around a common problem. It is especially worth considering this support option for the initiative on cognition in context. An emerging interdisciplinary field such as the neurobiology of life experience might develop most rapidly as the result of the work of such interdisciplinary research groups.

To pursue the research initiatives successfully, it may be advisable for the NIA to establish some new research programs or program offices, or at least to establish special emphasis panels to review the proposals. The initiative on cognition in context may be an example, as it encompasses an unusually wide range of disciplines. We encourage the NIA to consider these organizational issues carefully and to consult with the research community as it develops the research initiatives and to seek forms of organization that will encourage the needed interdisciplinary integration (see next section).


As this report makes clear, the study of cognitive aging is highly interdisciplinary and becoming more so. Each of the recommended research initiatives requires collaborations among neuroscientists, cognitive scientists, and behavioral scientists. Progress on each initiative depends on the development of research from multiple points of view (multidisciplinary research) and on efforts to integrate these points of view into comprehensive understandings of cognitive aging (interdisciplinary research). These needs extend even beyond the already interdisciplinary field of cognitive science, which has developed by linking such diverse specialties as linguistics, artificial intelligence, and neuroscience with behavioral science.

A great diversity of approaches is appropriate given the research problems, but it presents challenges of training and coordination because of the required breadth of knowledge. The field of cognitive neuroscience in particular requires the rethinking of traditional disciplinary training programs. The investigation of the relationship between cognition and brain processes demands knowledge of behavioral techniques for identifying cognitive processes and architecture, as well as techniques for measuring structural and functional aspects of brain. This interdisciplinary approach is especially germane to cognitive aging research for which age-related changes highlight the dynamic relationship between brain and cognitive processes.

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