Visual Universitätsmedizin Mainz

Mechanisms and modulation of cognitive resilience in aging

Dr. Dominik Wolf

Background

The brain is a self-organizing and adaptive system that shows robustness in the sense of sustained cognitive functioning in spite of gradual or sudden impairment of its components. This remarkable homeodynamic property derives from complex maintenance, repair and compensatory mechanisms, also designated as resilience mechanisms. In aging, marked individual variability of cognitive phenotypes at given levels of brain pathology, damages, or impairments has been observed despite the tendency to constancy and robustness. These observations imply strong variations in the degree of brain resilience. Since cognitive health has been quoted as a major factor for life quality in the elderly and contributes majorly to late-life functioning and independence, a more profound understanding of mechanisms underlying brain resilience in aging is necessary.

Research focus

This research section focuses on neuroimaging and clinical/neuropsychological approaches to understand the mechanisms underlying resilience against age-related cognitive decline. A major emphasis is placed on potential underlying structural brain mechanisms. The research section also explores intervention strategies that target mechanisms underlying resilience in order to promote individual brain health in aging and prevent or delay the onset of dementia.

Methods

The methodological focus for studying structural brain mechanisms underlying resilience lies on structural MRI, including T1- and T2-weighted imaging to investigate morphological brain characteristics, high-resolution hippocampal imaging to investigate structural properties of hippocampal subfields, and diffusion-weighted imaging to characterize microstructural properties of white matter regions/networks.

Projects

  • Mechanisms and modulators of cognitive training gain transfer in cognitively healthy aging (AgeGain) – Multicenter study funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)  (see Wolf D et al. (2018), Trials for further Details)

Cooperation partners

  •  Institute of Movement and Neurosciences, German Sport University Cologne (Prof. Dr. A. Mierau)
  • German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases, Site Rostock/Greifswald (Prof. Dr. Stefan Teipel)
  • Institute of Medical Biometry and Statistics, University of Freiburg (Prof. Dr. H. Binder)