New thesis about the relation between aging, dopamine-regulating genes, and neurocognition
Hi Xin Li, PhD student at the Aging Research Center (NVS). On October 28 you will defend your thesis “The relation between aging, dopamine-regulating genes, and neurocognition”. What’s the main focus of the thesis?
When people get old, they often feel it is increasingly harder to concentrate, and become slower and more inflexible during the tasks that require focused attention, storing information in the face of distractions and fast switching according to the changing goals. These cognitive functions are collectively referred to as working memory. The aim of this thesis is to understand the mechanisms of the age-related impairment in working memory at both neural and genetic levels.
Which are the most important results?
We found that age-related decrease in white-matter integrity might be accountable for working impairments in older adults. In addition, we found that older adults had lower modulation of striatal activity during working memory compared to younger adults. We also found the influence of several dopamine-related genes on grey-matter volume, white-matter integrity and brain function in older adults but not in younger adults. The results contribute in understanding the neural correlates of working memory decline in older adults and supporting a complex relation among dopamine, brain and working memory.
How can this new knowledge contribute to the improvement of people’s health?
Our studies provide insights to better understanding the mechanism of cognitive decline in aging. We hope that this knowledge can serve as a basis for future studies that focus on the practical implications. The ultimate goal of all the brain aging research is to prevent cognitive impairment in older adults, improve their brain health and to achieve successful brain aging.
What’s in the future for you? Will you keep on conducting research?
I will continue working at ARC after my defense and plan to keep on conducting this line of research in the future, focusing on gene, brain and cognition.