The Nutrition and Neurocognition Laboratory examines the interaction between nutritional factors and age-related cognitive decline in humans. Whereas the single most significant risk factor for dementia and cognitive decline is age, the fact that many individuals maintain their full mental faculties into old age suggests that cognitive decline is not a necessary feature of normal aging. When present, declining brain function may have multiple causes including processes such as vascular disease, oxidative stress and inflammation, which are all highly influenced by nutrition. In addition, aging may affect the brain's requirement for nutrients that are involved in normal brain metabolism; for example, in the synthesis of neurotransmitters and maintenance of brain-cell signaling, connectivity and repair capacity.
This laboratory takes a broad approach to the problem by identifying nutritional factors that are associated with cognitive decline and neurodegenerative conditions in population studies; by investigating the mechanisms underlying those associations through nutritional intervention in genetic animal models of human dementia syndromes and in cell systems; and through efforts to translate observations from the population, animal and cell studies, into human studies of dietary-intervention and brain-aging. Ultimately, the laboratory is directed towards determining the nutritional requirements for maintaining a healthy brain and for promoting neurological and cognitive function in the elderly.
The laboratory is collaborating with the HNRCA Neuroscience Laboratory on animal behavior studies and with the HNRCA Vitamin Metabolism Laboratory and the Nutritional Epidemiology Program on two multi-center, double-blind studies ? the Folic Acid for Vascular Outcome Reduction in Transplantation (FAVORIT) project and the FAVORIT Ancillary Cognitive Trial (FACT) that are determining whether treatment with high doses of folic acid, and vitamins B6 and B12 alters the rate of cardiovascular disease and cognitive decline in renal transplant patients.
Related Links (not HNRCA-sponsored)