This is an application to continue research originally started in 2001, and expanded into a longitudinal study, known as the Virginia Cognitive Aging Project (VCAP), in 2005. Over 2,300 adults 18 - 95 years old have now completed at least two longitudinal occasions, with an average of 2.7 occasions and an average time in study of 5.1 years. The research proposed in the next funding period will extend the investigation of short-term longitudinal change in a broad variety of cognitive measures, with particular emphasis on adults under the age of 80. Although previous studies have found little or no cognitive change in longitudinal comparisons involving young and middle-aged adults, this research employs three methodological innovations, variable retest intervals, measurement bursts at each occasion, and continuous recruitment of new participants, that help distinguish age effects from experience (retest) effects, and that increase sensitivity to detect change by taking into account normal short-term variability in performance. Among the primary questions to be investigated are when does normal age-related cognitive change begin, the degree to which changes in different cognitive variables are independent of one another at different periods in adulthood, the role of prior test experience on the direction and magnitude of cognitive change at different ages, the degree to which factors such as one's cognitive or physical lifestyle moderate the amount of age-related change in different cognitive abilities at various periods in adulthood, and how early can normal and pathological trajectories of cognitive aging be distinguished.
Specific aims during the next grant period are to: (1) Expand the characterization of normal cognitive aging across the range from about 18 to 80 years old; (2) Extend the investigation of the role of experience effects on cognitive change; (3) Investigate the structure and nature of cognitive change across different levels of analysis and across a wide range of ages; and (4) Increase sensitivity of VCAP tests to detect early stages of cognitive pathology among VCAP participants.

Public Health Relevance

Cognitive health is an important component of quality of life, particularly at older ages when impairments are more common and may compromise the ability to live independently. Understanding when and why cognitive functioning declines, and distinguishing normal from pathological cognitive aging as early as possible, are therefore increasingly important public health issues as the average age of the population is increasing.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Aging (NIA)
Research Project (R01)
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Cognition and Perception Study Section (CP)
Program Officer
King, Jonathan W
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University of Virginia
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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Salthouse, Timothy A (2018) Why is cognitive change more negative with increased age? Neuropsychology 32:110-120
Salthouse, Timothy A (2018) Trajectories of normal cognitive aging. Psychol Aging :
Salthouse, Timothy A (2017) Contributions of the Individual Differences Approach to Cognitive Aging. J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci 72:7-15
La Fleur, Claire G; Salthouse, Timothy A (2017) Which Aspects of Social Support Are Associated With Which Cognitive Abilities for Which People? J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci 72:1006-1016
Salthouse, Timothy A (2017) Shared and unique influences on age-related cognitive change. Neuropsychology 31:11-19
Salthouse, Timothy A (2017) Comparable Consistency, Coherence, and Commonality of Measures of Cognitive Functioning Across Adulthood. Assessment :1073191117721742
Soubelet, Andrea; Salthouse, Timothy A (2017) Does Need for Cognition Have the Same Meaning at Different Ages? Assessment 24:987-998
Salthouse, Timothy A (2017) Item analyses of memory differences. J Clin Exp Neuropsychol 39:326-335
Salthouse, Timothy A (2016) Aging Cognition Unconfounded by Prior Test Experience. J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci 71:49-58
Salthouse, Timothy A (2016) Little relation of adult age with cognition after controlling general influences. Dev Psychol 52:1545-1554

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