Background As the world population is ageing, and ageing is often stereotyped as a time of mental restriction and inflexibility, individuals make flexible use of available resources, including recruiting regions and other cognitive processes. Our aim is to identify what determines successful ageing across the adult lifespan into old age of cognitive abilities such as memory, attention, emotion, language and action.
Methods A population-based cohort of 3000 adults, aged 18+, will be recruited with demographic and basic cognitive assessments. Of these, 700, aged 18–87 with 100 per decile, will be selected for comprising structural and functional neuroimaging [MRI and magnetoencephalography (MEG)] and neuropsychological tests. We will measure neural integrity and integration across cortical regions. On a subset of 280 adults further investigations will use functional MRI, MEG and electroencephalogram, and further behavioural testing. Formal statistical models will be used to examine the changes that occur with healthy ageing, and the reorganisation in terms of strategies and structures invoked to compensate for them. This approach offers hypothesis-driven insights into healthy ageing that are relevant to the general population.
Results Collection of data started in Jan-11, with the initial cohort taking 2 years to recruit and a further 3 years for all detailed investigations.
Conclusions Our research will generate a unique resource of neuroimaging and cognitive measures about change across the adult lifespan. Our analysis will help us to identify what characterises older adults with preserved performance and how normal ageing differs from pathological ageing in conditions such as Alzheimer's disease.
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