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Neurocognitive Aging Section

Peter Rapp, Ph.D., Chief

Age-related cognitive decline threatens independent living, compromises the quality of life, and represents a key risk for the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Research in the Neurocognitive Aging Section (NAS) aims to understand the basis of cognitive aging across multiple levels of analysis, from the regulation of neuronal gene expression critical for memory-related synaptic plasticity, to the organization of large-scale neural network dynamics linked to cognitive function. In addition to illuminating substrates of impairment, NAS research has begun to outline a neurobiological account of positive trajectories in aging, revealing neuroadaptive changes that appear critical for maintaining normal memory in old age. Exciting new technologies currently coming online in NAS include transcranial magnetic stimulation for intervention studies in preclinical animal models, and light-sheet microscopy for large volume neural network imaging in CLARITY/iDISCO cleared brain samples. Ultimately our efforts are aimed at the development of translatable strategies for promoting optimally healthy neurocognitive aging.

Portfolio/Research Areas

  • Immediate-early gene regulation in cognitive aging
  • Neural network representation of recent experience in cognitive aging
  • Quantitative neuroanatomy in relation to individual differences in cognitive aging
  • Neuroadaptive substrates of successful cognitive aging
  • Disrupted excitatory/inhibitory balance and neurodegenerative risk
  • Functional MRI analysis of neurocognitive aging in preclinical models
  • Neurocognitive effects of non-invasive brain stimulation

Findings and Publications

Ash, J.A., Lu, H., Taxier, L., Long, J.M., Yang, Y., Stein, E.A. and Rapp, P.R. Functional connectivity with the retrosplenial cortex predicts cognitive aging in rats. PNAS, 113: 12286-91, 2016. 10.1073/pnas.1525309113

Hara, Y., Yuk, F., Puri, R., Janssen W.G.M., Rapp, P.R. and Morrison, J.H. Presynaptic mitochondrial morphology in monkey prefrontal cortex correlates with working memory and is improved with estrogen treatment. PNAS, 111: 486-91, 2014. 10.1073/pnas.1311310110

Liang, X., Hsu, L.-M., Ash, J.A., Hanbing, L., Rapp, P.R*. and Yang, Y* (*co-corresponding authors). Functional connectivity of hippocampal CA3 predicts cognitive aging via CA1-frontal circuit. Cereb. Cortex, 2020. 10.1093/cercor/bhaa008

Long, J., Perez, E.J., Roberts, J.A., Roberts, M.T. and Rapp, P.R. Reelin in the years: decline in the number of reelin immunoreactive neurons in the entorhinal cortex in aged monkeys with memory impairment. Neurobiol. Aging, 87: 132-137, 2020. 10.1016/ j. neurobiolaging. 2019.12.010

Rapp, P.R., Bañuelos, C. and Myrum, C. (2020). Neuroadaptive Trajectories of Healthy Mindspan: From Genes to Neural Networks. In A. Thomas & A. Gutchess (Eds.), The Cambridge Handbook of Cognitive Aging: A Life Course Perspective (Cambridge Handbooks in Psychology, pp. 62-81). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 10.1017/9781108552684.005