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01-11-2014 | Review | Uitgave 6/2014

Psychological Research 6/2014

Plasticity of brain and cognition in older adults

Psychological Research > Uitgave 6/2014
Yvonne Brehmer, Grégoria Kalpouzos, Elisabeth Wenger, Martin Lövdén


Aging is typically related to changes in brain and cognition, but the aging process is heterogeneous and differs between individuals. Recent research has started investigating the influence of cognitive and physical training on cognitive performance, functional brain activity, and brain structure in old age. The functional relevance of neural changes and the interactions among these changes following interventions is still a matter of debate. Here we selectively review research on structural and functional brain correlates of training-induced performance changes in healthy older adults and present exemplary longitudinal intervention studies sorted by the type of training applied (i.e., strategy-based training, process-specific training, and physical exercise). Although many training studies have been conducted recently, within each task domain, the number of studies that used comparable methods and techniques to assess behavioral and neural changes is limited. We suggest that future studies should include a multimodal approach to enhance the understanding of the relation between different levels of brain changes in aging and those changes that result from training. Investigating inter-individual differences in intervention-induced behavioral and neuronal changes would provide more information about who would benefit from a specific intervention and why. In addition, a more systematic examination of the time course of training-related structural and functional changes would improve the current level of knowledge about how learning is implemented in the brain and facilitate our understanding of contradictory results.

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