Cognitive decline in aging seems inevitable, but its extent is not. Older adults` brains and cognition vary widely. Recently it has been recognized that late-life functional variation is influenced by factors present in development. It is insufficient to search for mechanisms in old age to understand determinants of healthy aging. This project will identify the impact of early life factors on neurocognitive lifespan changes and aging. This is crucial to understand the early mechanisms, and to identify what and how residual variance may be affected by late-life factors. Genetic and experiential factors interact throughout life to shape brain and cognition. Hence, aging starts in the womb, and a number of risk factors for poor cognitive function and decline in aging may be similar to those for aberrant development. This project tracked fine-grained variation in brain and cognition across a high number of persons at different ages (3-100 years) in relation to early life factors, including 1) newborn characteristics, e.g. birth weight, 2) early life cognitive, physical function and health measured by military conscription and longitudinal data 3) identification of similiarities of patterns of factors affecting development and aging. We hypothesize that factors affecting brain and cognition in aging will often do so through a life-long accumulation of impact and not be specific to aging, may often represent quantitative rather than qualitative differences between health and decline, and constitute a range of environmental and genetic factors and their interplay. A unique combination of a longitudinal neurocognitive imaging experimental approach and registry data, national and international cross-disciplinary collaboration, yields novel possibilities to uncover determinants of healthy aging of brain and cognition, preventive and intervention measures to reduce cognitive decline. The project will investigate changes in brain and cognition with age in relation to risk and protective factors across international cohorts. We will broaden samples, replicate and compare findings to determine which aspects are universal and for which aspects cross-cultural differences apply. For this, the Project has centered on establishment of databases harmonized and standardized across sites. This has already resulted in several joint publications. The partnership has further built excellence and mobility of Research staff and students through international exchange. Among the activities, we have carried out three summer schools, two in Toronto (2017 and 2019) and one in Oslo (2018). Both research and training (Master, PhD and Post-doc level) have be enhanced in elements of cognitive neuroscience where the groups possess complementary expertise. The partnership has been granted further INTPART funds for a 3 years period, including activities such as summer schools, researcher exchanges, further data pooling and harmonisation, between scanner harmonisation of data and strengthened collaboration on the role of cardio-metabolic factors in brain health.
The establishment of the new Oslo-Toronto collaboration enabled us to take advantage of the complementary expertise and resources, to make major advancements in understanding brain and cognition through the lifespan. Examples of major outcomes of this collaboration are: 1. Organization of three highly successful summer schools (2017: Toronto/ 2018: Oslo/ 2019: Toronto) with more than 30 attendees on each spanning master students, PhD students, post docs, researchers and faculty members 2. Four joint research papers, three already published and one currently under review 3. One PhD student and one post doc from Oslo each had three months stays in Toronto in 2018 working with Paus and Pausova on the joint Oslo-Toronto research projects. The Oslo-Toronto Alliance got strengthened by an allocation of 3,15 million Norwegian Kroner from the Research Council of Norway.
LCBC CAN is a new partnership to develop world-class research and education through establishing new collaborations between the research group LCBC and Canadian partners, Rotman Research Institute and SickKids affiliated with the University of Toronto. The project will investigate changes in brain and cognition with age in relation to risk and protective factors across international cohorts. We will broaden samples, replicate and compare findings to determine which aspects are universal and for which aspects cross-cultural differences apply. For this, the project will center on establishment of databases harmonized and standardized across sites. The partnership will build excellence and mobility of research staff and students through international exchange. Both research and training (Master, PhD and Post-doc level) will be enhanced in in elements of cognitive neuroscience where the groups possess complementary expertise, including in genetics, epigenetics, cardiovascular, and metabolic measures (SickKids), brain maturation, mental health and substance use (Rotman), cognition, multimodal imaging, and longitudinal measurements (LCBC). This complementarity is also seen at the level of data samples, where the Canadian groups have access to multiple imaging cohorts, including a two-generational cohort (adolescents and their middle-aged parents), while LCBC is particularly strong on linkage of neurocognitive and registry information. Establishing new collaborations with these partners will enable major empirical and theoretical advancements in understanding brain and cognition through the lifespan. The project will help establish which biomarkers predict cognitive function and mental health in a lifespan perspective, and which factors, e.g. nutritional or health-related, that will improve cognition or mental health if targeted by interventions or lifestyle changes at different ages. Hence, the project aims to be of high scientific, educational and societal value.