UF researchers look to slow or
avert age-related cognitive decline

By: Michelle Koidin Jaffee
Right: Adam Woods, PhD, is leading the largest-to-date, Phase III clinical trial designed to test transcranial direct current stimulation, or tDCS, under a $5.7 million grant from the National Institute on Aging. One goal is to determine whether combining cognitive training and tDCS might actually slow certain aspects of the normal cognitive aging process. Left: In a photo demonstration, Adam Woods, PhD, shows how transcranial direct current stimulation would work on a patient. The model, Dr. Robert Thoburn, is not in the clinical trial. Thoburn, 79, exercises regularly to stay fit in body and mind. Photo by Mindy C. Miller
"We're trying to find ways to help a large percentage of the population basically live cognitively healthier, longer."
— Adam Woods, PhD
The ACT research team will use state-of-the-art neuroimaging to measure changes in the brain in response to cognitive training by itself and in conjunction with transcranial direct current stimulation, or tDCS. "The goal is to find out whether learning capacity can be increased in older adults by coupling cognitive training with electrical stimulation of the brain," says Ronald Cohen, PhD, right, with Michael Marsiske, PhD. Photo by Mindy C. Miller
Moderate to strenuous exercise indeed has shown noteworthy benefit to cognition.
Michael Marsiske, PhD
TDCS is believed to work by affecting the neuroplastic response of brain tissue.
Similar to the ACTIVE clinical trial, which involved 2,802 seniors ages 65 to 96, the newly developed ACT study, or Augmenting Clinical Training in Older Adults, will use BrainHQ, a computer program aimed at training attention, brain speed, memory and other skills.
Basic science investigators at UF's Mcknight Brain Institute are simultaneously studying cognitive aging in animal models.
A new $3 million 3T MRI scanner was installed at the McKnight Brain Institute in December, providing UF investigators with some of the strongest gradients available for human imaging. This powerful new scanner will yield images that reveal second-to-second changes in brain activation patterns. Photo by Mindy C. Miller
"When you look at aging, you're talking two things: genes and environment."
— Tom Foster, PhD
professor of neuroscience and Evelyn F. McKnight chair for research on cognitive aging and memory
Todd Golde, MD, PhD, has been appointed executive director of the McKnight Brain Institute. Photo by Kyle Walker

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