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Successful Trajectories of Aging: Reserve and Resilience in RatS (STARRRS)

Abstract image of neural network

Successful Trajectories of Aging: Reserve and Resilience in RatS (STARRRS)

STARRRS is an open science phenotypic data and biospecimen resource. It is currently in development.


Aging in humans and animals is associated with increased changes in cognitive performance. Some people have typical neurobiological signs of aging but their cognition remains relatively stable. In contrast, other people experience major cognitive decline. STARRRS will help researchers better understand why these differences in cognitive decline or resilience occur by providing longitudinal, lifespan data from a well-defined model of neurocognitive aging in rats.

This resource was identified as a need during the Cognitive Aging Summit III in 2017. Read more about STARRRS at this Inside the NIA Blog post "Cognitive research reaches for the STARRRS."

Assessments and Data

STARRRS will provide an open databank of longitudinal phenotypic data, neuroimaging scans, and tissue and other biological samples for distribution, utilizing a validated Long Evans rat model that features reliable individual differences in neurocognitive outcome with advanced age.

Male and female rats will be followed from youth to old age with state-of-the-art technologies to assess brain structure and function non-invasively and with dynamic phenotypic measurements. The resource is intended to remain flexible in design over time and stakeholder community input is highly encouraged.

Longitudinal assessments and data anticipated to be available through STARRRS are outlined below.

Clinical history

Phenotypic Assessment

  • Memory: Odor Recognition Memory, Spatial Learning and Memory
  • Anxiety: Elevated Plus Maze
  • Executive Function & Attention: Two-Choice Serial Reaction Time
  • Physical Function: Home Cage Activity, Exploratory Behavior

Physiological Assessment

  • Vital Statistics
  • Plasma Samples
  • Fecal Samples
  • Vaginal Cytology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging: Structural and functional brain imaging will be performed using a dedicated, state of the art 9.4T Bruker Biospec 94/20 USR high-field scanner, equipped with a high-sensitivity Cryoprobe, high-power gradients and the ability to scan non-proton nuclei such as 31P and 23NA.
    • Structural Imaging
    • Resting State Functional Connectivity
    • Cerebral Blood Flow
    • Spectroscopy

Postmortem Tissue Sampling

  • Brain
    • Right Striatum
    • Left Striatum
    • Cerebellum
    • Frontal Cortex
    • Right Hippocampus
    • Left Hippocamps
    • Basal forebrain
    • Right Parietal Cortex
    • Left Parietal Cortex
  • Cervical Spinal Cord
  • Eyes
  • Pinna Skin
  • Adrenal Glands
  • Lung Lobe
  • Heart
  • Liver Lobe
  • Kidney
  • Testicle or Ovaries
  • Gastrocnemius Muscle
  • Brown Adipose Tissue
  • White Adipose Tissue

Assessment Timeline

A phased-in schedule of animals will begin longitudinal assessment in January 2022. The first cohorts will complete testing in early 2024, and STARRRS resources are projected to be available for distribution beginning at that time.

  • One month of age: Male and female rats arrive and are weighed, receive a subcutaneous ID microchip, and feces collected.

  • Two to four months of age: Cohorts to be assessed on cognitive behavioral tasks will receive up to four weeks of pre-training.

  • Six months to 24 months of age: Behavioral assessments, magnetic resonance neuroimaging, and physiological assessments occur every six months.

Other than control groups, all cohorts will undergo the same physiological and neuroimaging assessments. Behavioral testing in different cohorts will assess lifespan changes in physical function and a variety of cognitive domains, including memory, emotionality, attention, and executive function. Hippocampal memory assessed in the Morris Water Maze at two years of age will provide an endpoint measure of individual differences in cognitive aging.


Please contact for more information about STARRRS or to provide resource design input.

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