Releasing the Brakes on Adult Plasticity (REBOOT)

PI: Martin Lövdén, martin.lovden@ki.se

Reductions in cognitive ability – the ability to engage in higher mental processes such as remembering past events – limit older people’s lives and are costly to individuals and society. The causes of cognitive aging are many and complex, which makes it difficult to find effective preventive and therapeutic drug treatments. Efforts to develop such treatments have been unsuccessful, as have attempts to train cognitive abilities (for example, with repeated practice on challenging memory tasks). We hypothesize that this is because the brain’s ability to change – its plasticity – is inhibited after normal childhood development and further reduced as we age. Thus, previous attempts to cognitively train older adults have been akin to trying to push a car with the brakes engaged. REBOOT consists of experiments that attempt to release the brakes in a variety of ways. In particular, we will investigate whether brain signals that inhibit plasticity can be temporarily reduced, opening a brief window in which cognitive training can improve cognitive ability. REBOOT will help us understand the factors and processes that lie behind brain plasticity. These insights will pave the way for methods that prevent and reduce cognitive aging.

The project is carried out at “Hjärnlabbet,” a brain lab that studies how people’s behavior affects their brain development and cognitive abilities in adult life and aging. For more information about this project and the lab, see http://hjarnlabbet.weebly.com/ (in Swedish).

REBOOT is funded by the European Research Council.