We study human brain aging.

Our brain and cognitive abilities change over time. Age-related brain changes can be beneficial, but they can also be detrimental to healthy living in older adulthood. We are a Cognitive Neuroscience laboratory whose research is focused on understanding how and why the human brain ages. We are trying to figure out why some people age relatively gracefully throughout older age, while others experience rapid cognitive decline (sometimes without any warning). To accomplish these goals, we apply a variety of innovative brain imaging and stimulation techniques to study brain anatomy, organization, and function in healthy and unhealthy individuals across the adult lifespan.

Scroll down to learn more about SOME different aspects of our research!

 
Building brain network models.

Building brain network models.

Large-scale Brain Networks

Our research is focused on defining and understanding the large-scale network organization of the human brain using neuroimaging. We incorporate network analysis methods to understand the complex relationships that exist between brain areas (large groups of connected neurons that are functionally related) and determine how this brain network organization gives rise to cognition (e.g., long-term memory, attention, emotion). We are interested in how and why brain networks and cognition change across time.

For representative overviews see:

Wig et al. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences (2011)
Wig et al. Neuroimage (2014)
Wig. Trends in Cognitive Sciences (2017)

Organization of functional brain networks measured using resting-state fMRI.

Organization of functional brain networks measured using resting-state fMRI.

Brain Development across the Adult Lifespan

We study how the organization and function of brain networks change across the adult lifespan. This research involves both examining individuals from different age segments of adulthood (e.g., snapshots of 20 vs. 50 vs. 80 year olds), and also repeatedly studying the same individuals as they grow older (i.e., over multiple years). We also study individuals across different degrees of brain health. This multi-prong approach allows us to gain a deeper understanding of healthy and unhealthy aging, and also helps us to identify potential biomarkers of impending problems prior to the onset of age-related brain dysfunction.

For representative publications see:

Chan et al. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA (2014)
Chan et al. Journal of Neuroscience (2017)
Han et al., Cerebral Cortex (2018)

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Long-term Memory

Our ability to form, retain and retrieve records of our past is a central aspect of what defines us as individuals. Memory is a product of interactions between multiple brain regions across the brain network, and our research is focused on understanding how these network interactions give rise to conscious and non-conscious memories in individuals. Our focus on long-term memory is motivated by a goal of understanding the pathological processes that give rise to age-related memory decline in both healthy individuals but also individuals suffering with dementias such as Alzheimer’s Disease.

For representative publications see:

Wig et al. Nature Neuroscience (2005)
Wig et al. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA (2008) 

US County-level maps (2016) of Median Household Income and Education level

US County-level maps (2016) of Median Household Income and Education level

Relationships Between the Brain and the Environment

Our environment defines our interactions with the social and material world. We want to understand how our environment and brain networks shape one-another across the lifespan. Do differences in access to resources, stimulation and environmental stressors contribute to age-related brain decline? If so when does this start, and who are the most vulnerable individuals? If we can detect these vulnerabilities early enough in an individual, it may be possible to intervene to slow down or even change their trajectory of decline.

For representative publications see:

Chan et al. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA (2018) 

Individualized network stimulation

Individualized network stimulation

Targeted Interventions to Change the Brain

Gaining a deeper understanding of individual differences in brain networks and cognitive ability has led us to formulate a number of hypotheses about brain network function. To directly test these hypotheses, we are conducting experiments to determine whether we can modify the organization and function of an individual’s brain network and their corresponding cognitive abilities. This research is being done using interventions that incorporate behavioral training and non-invasive brain stimulation.

For representative publications see:

Wig et al. Nature Neuroscience (2005) 

We are extremely thankful to the funding groups and organizations that support us and our research!

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