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McKnight Brain Research Foundation Holds Fifth Inter-Institutional Meeting

Published: May 3rd, 2012

Category: News

Challenges and opportunities in characterizing cognitive aging across species was the theme of the fifth inter-institutional meeting of research scientists who met April 11-13, 2012. The meeting was sponsored by the McKnight Brain Research Foundation (MBRF) and hosted by the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute at the University of Arizona. The research program was the result of a Cognitive Aging Test Battery Work Group established by the MBRF and composed of representatives from each of the four McKnight Brain Institutes located at the University of Alabama, the University of Arizona and the University of Florida and the University of Miami.

The working group meetings were dedicated to examine a library of age-sensitive tasks that can be used to translate findings across different levels of analysis and across species. After a year of work, the members of the cognitive aging test battery work group produced seven important research papers on the following topics and were the focus of the two day meeting attended by 85 research scientists from the four McKnight Brain Institutes.

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• Challenges and Opportunities in Characterizing Cognitive Aging Across species

• Characterizing Cognitive Aging of Associative Memory in Animal Models

• Characterizing Cognitive Aging of Recognition Memory and Related Processes in Animal Models

• Characterizing Cognitive Aging of Working Memory and Executive Function in Animal Models

• Characterizing Healthy Samples for Studies of Human Cognitive Aging

• Characterizing Cognitive Aging in Humans with Links to Animal Models

The manuscripts, which have been submitted for publication in a special issue of Frontiers in Neuroscience, identify tests that are useful in both humans and experimental models, based on specific cognitive processes, which in most cases depend upon defined neural systems. The aim of the work is to allow research scientists to draw more accurate conclusions about human cognitive aging from the work in other model species. Additionally, the work highlights gaps in linking human and animal laboratory models, and recommends approaches for filling those gaps.

Carol Barnes, PhD, The Evelyn F. McKnight Chair in Age Related Memory Loss and Director of the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute at the University of Arizona was the local host and the arrangements chair for this important and successful meeting. Dr. Barnes was also the chair of the first inter-institutional meeting in held in 2008 at the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute at the University of Arizona. The purpose of the inter-institutional meetings is to foster the necessary collaboration between the research scientists in each of the four institutions to achieve successful outcomes in the understanding of cognitive aging and the problems of learning and memory in the aging with emphasis on cognitive health, prevention and treatment of cognitive decline and loss.

The inter-institutional meetings are held at least annually, rotating among each of the four McKnight Brain Institutes. The next MBRF hosted inter-institutional meeting will be April 24-26, 2013 at the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.