Mission Statement

Mission:

To discover mechanisms of resilience and functional maintenance in the aging brain, and to
establish a baseline for plasticity-related changes with age across many model systems, in order to identify and test potential interventions to minimize cognitive decline and extend healthy life span.

Background:

As the age of the world’s population steadily rises, the need to understand the phenomenon and mechanisms of cognitive decline also increases. In the United States alone, the population over the age of 65 is estimated to double to almost 84 million between 2012 and 2050. Current research on neuronal aging focuses predominantly on neurodegenerative disease, with little attention paid to plasticity and cognitive decline in the otherwise normal aging brain. Elucidating mechanisms of resilience and functional maintenance of cognition in the aging brain is of critical importance. Establishing a baseline for plasticity-related changes with age across many model systems will facilitate identification and testing of potential interventions to minimize cognitive decline and extend the healthy life span. Funding from the Simons Foundation will have a major impact on this unmet need, relevant to both science and society.

Approach:

This collaboration will employ two interconnected approaches. First, we will fund discovery science to uncover mechanisms of resilience and functional maintenance in the aging brain, and target these mechanisms to treat and prevent cognitive decline with age. Second, we will establish a standardized database for broad application of neuronal plasticity data across model systems and humans.

Emphasis:

Cognitive aging is a huge unmet need, yet there is minimal explicit funding for this challenge by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). SCPAB projects will specifically address changes in normal aging, to distinguish our studies from well funded efforts to study Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases. Similarly, SCPAB projects will specifically address changes in functional, healthy adult animals as they age, to distinguish from work focusing on developmental trajectories. Supported work will contribute to large databases of information that can be shared and widely used, as well as identify possible mechanisms of intervention. The potential impact on the scientific field is large: A proposed database on baseline adult neuronal function and molecular characterization will be utilized beyond the aging field, and age-related data will be used by the aging and neurodegenerative fields. The potential impact on society is even larger, if the approaches are successful in identifying directed intervention approaches to augment and maintain cognitive function with age.

Director: Coleen Murphy (Princeton)
Executive Committee: Randy Buckner (Harvard), Saul Villeda (UCSF) and Gerald D. Fischbach (Simons Foundation)

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