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The Aging Mind: Opportunities in Cognitive Research
Recent advances in imaging technology have generated enormous interest in brain-behavior relationships, increasing the importance of training for neuroscientists in experimental techniques for investigating cognitive processes. Graduate training in neuroscience, however, often emphasizes techniques for investigating brain structure and process with little emphasis on behavioral techniques that are fundamental to the investigation of memory, language, attention, and other cognitive functions and less on linking neural phenomena and fundamental cognitive processes to adaptive behavior in real-life situations.
The NIA should support postdoctoral fellowships, conferences, workshops, and summer institutes to encourage individual scientists to broaden their knowledge and technical capability in order to address interdisciplinary issues that are central to the new research initiatives.
For example, these mechanisms should be used to encourage neuroscientists and neuropsychologists to increase their training in cognitive experimental techniques and cognitive models. They should be used to encourage applicants with graduate degrees in cognitive psychology, linguistics, artificial intelligence, and the study of socioeconomic, educational, and cultural differences to strengthen their knowledge of brain structure and their ability to use techniques for investigating brain function.
The NIA, perhaps in conjunction with other institutes, should organize a special competition that would provide multiyear support of a few small multidisciplinary research centers or teams focused on analytical problems posed by the research initiatives that require the simultaneous application of multiple perspectives (e.g., neurobiology of training or cultural difference, development of adaptive technology).
The mechanism of interactive research program grants may also be useful for encouraging collaboration on common problems by researchers approaching them from different disciplinary perspectives.
Progress on the three major research initiatives depends on supportive research infrastructure, as already noted. For example, we have noted the need for access to aged animals for research. To ensure adequate access to such animals requires support beyond that provided for individual research projects. Such support is a public good for research.
The NIA should help support the maintenance of colonies of patho-