The science of ageing well
By 2031, a quarter of Canadians will be over the age of 65. Canadians are living longer, and that is excellent news. That said, aging ushers in cognitive changes that can hinder seniors from taking full advantage of the benefits that come with increased longevity.
Dr. Sylvie Belleville, Canada Research Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience of Aging and Brain Plasticity, is trying to develop a better understanding of the effects of aging on the brain and on cognition. Belleville hopes to explain why some people seem blessed with a reserve that protects them from the effects of brain aging. She will also analyze whether certain interventions can help amplify the reserve processes.
Belleville and her team will use cognitive measures and magnetic resonance imaging to visualize the anatomy of the brain and the parts that are activated when someone performs a cognitive task. This will help them determine how certain individual characteristics (such as a high level of education or active lifestyle) come to modify the effects of age on the brain and memory. They will also examine the effects on the brain of cognitive workouts, virtual reality workouts and stimulating recreational and artistic activities to determine whether these interventions can promote brain plasticity.
Belleville’s work could have a major impact on the health of Canada’s elderly by increasing our understanding of cognitive aging and finding ways to help people maintain cognitive vitality as they grow older.