Clinical challenges and the ageing brain

Chair(s): Sandra Martin (Leipzig), Anna Rysop (Leipzig)

Presenter(s): Linda Geerligs (Nijmegen, Netherlands), Sandra Martin (Leipzig), Anna Rysop (Leipzig), Friederike Thams (Greifswald)

Aging is accompanied by a myriad of cognitive changes. A growing body of research addresses the underlying neural reorganization processes at structural and functional levels. Furthermore, the development of non-invasive brain stimulation techniques such as transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) has sparked interest in their potential to counteract cognitive decline in aging by inducing neural plasticity. Our symposium examines age-dependent alterations on structural and functional levels with a particular focus on neural network dynamics by presenting novel data from a variety of cognitive domains. Moreover, the potential of non-invasive brain stimulation to attenuate cognitive decline in aging is discussed. Linda Geerligs unravels the interplay of age-related changes in brain structure and function. By using cross-sectional and longitudinal data, she demonstrates how structural and functional connectivity decouple with advancing age and how this relates to cognition. Sandra Martin provides insight on neural aging in the domain of semantic cognition. She shows how the behavioral relevance of functional connectivity within and between domain-general networks is modulated by age. Anna Rysop discusses age-related changes in neural network dynamics during speech in noise comprehension. Using individualized stimuli, she explores commonalities and differences in the use of semantic context to aid comprehension. Friederike Thams provides novel evidence for the potential of a cognitive training accompanied by tDCS in older adults with and without cognitive impairments. Pooling insight from behavioral and neuroimaging data, she discusses possible plasticity-induced effects of the intervention. We envisage a controversial and fruitful discussion of conceptual and methodological links between these approaches.