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Set to change? Lifespan factors influencing neurocognitive trajectories and plasticity

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Are we set to change neurocognitively in certain ways? In this presentation, I use magnetic resonance imaging, standardized and experimental cognitive and registry data to show how individual differences in neurocognitive change and plasticity are influenced by factors through the lifespan. A challenge is now to identify the impact of factors at different life stages, including early life factors, on later neurocognitive changes and plasticity. Example influences discussed include prenatal environment, genetics and lifestyle variables. Taking factors present at birth into account may further understanding of both the mechanisms at work early in life, and what and how residual variance may be affected by late-life factors.

My research is targeted at understanding the mechanisms underlying change in brain and cognition, and whether and how we ourselves can initiate, enhance or slow them. Together with colleagues, I am trying to uncover markers and mechanisms underlying differences and changes in brain and cognitive behavior throughout the lifespan. In this effort, we’re studying persons ranging in age from 0 to 100 years. We have mostly focused on understanding normal cognition and brain-behavior relationships throughout the human lifespan, and are also involved in patient studies, for instance on memory deficits, Alzheimer disease, and drug exposure in utero. Together with professors René Westerhausen and Anders M. Fjell, I head the Center for Lifespan Changes in Brain and Cognition, where we are currently following more than 1000 persons spanning different life stages. For each person, we conduct multiple follow-ups with Magnetic Resonance Imaging and cognitive experimental as well as standardized tests, and, tracking changes in brain and cognition. While we target normal variation, I also conduct experimental interventions with cognitive training, aimed at identified factors that restrict and promote plasticity at varying ages. A research interest is development of methodological designs to measure and disentangle influences at different life stages on later brain and cognitive characteristics.

This talk is part of the Zangwill Club series.

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