What happens to the brain as we age? There is a misconception that the brain begins to fall apart as we get older but the truth is, even though the fastest growing segment of the population is 65 and older, we know almost nothing about how the brain changes as a function of aging.
Prof. Allison Sekuler, Canada Research Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience at McMaster University has found that as we age, the brain has a capacity to reorganize itself when it comes up against a challenge and make use of areas that were previously used for other things in younger people. For instance, if we are not able to see as well, we are able to make use of the parts of the brain that normally would be used for memory and attention to compensate. Prof. Sekuler’s research group in the Vision & Cognitive Neuroscience Lab studies how the brain changes with age and experience, and is using a combination of behavioural and neuroimaging methods to understand the limits of this compensatory reorganization. In the future, this knowledge could be used to create training programs to harness the brain’s capacity for change to maximize learning and quality of life in older individuals.