University of Texas at Dallas Center for Vital Longevity
Park Aging Mind Laboratory

The Dallas Lifespan Brain Study

The Dallas Lifespan Brain Study

The Dallas Lifespan Brain Study (DLBS), represents one of the largest and most systematic investigations of the interrelationships among neural structure, brain function, and cognition across the lifespan, including middle-age. The DLBS focuses on the study of healthy adults and is playing a significant role in understanding the aging mind. In the DLBS, we test 350 adults, 50 from each decade from 20 to 89, permitting us to thoroughly characterize cognition, brain structure and function across the adult lifespan. The major goals of the DLBS are:

Determine healthy patterns of neural function across the lifespan.  In order to intervene on the brain, we need to understand how it works. In the face of mental effort, there is clear evidence that the brain of older individuals shows greater activity compared to a young adult brain. Virtually nothing is known about when in the lifespan a shift to an “old brain” pattern of activity occurs. We hypothesize that some middle-aged subjects will show activation patterns more typical of young adults and that these subjects will have better cognitive function and less structural deterioration.  On the other hand, some middle-aged adults will begin to show “older” patterns of brain activation. We expect they show more structural deterioration and poorer cognitive ability.  In general, the “younger” the activation pattern, the better the cognitive function and structural integrity of the brain.

Learn how the brain develops and utilizes “neural scaffolds” to support cognition.  Dr. Park's work suggests that the structure of the brain declines with age, but that brain activity increases as individuals get older.  She proposes that as people age, they develop new neural circuits and increased brain activity to compensate for decreases in brain volume and integrity.  This enhanced activity or "neural scaffolding" is clearly visible on brain scans, particularly in frontal lobes and results in better behavioral performance in older adults facing cognitive decline.  

Assess whether “fuzzy” neural representations with age are fundamental to understanding cognitive aging.  In earlier work, we have reported compelling evidence suggesting that the aging brain has broad, fuzzy neural representations of categories of objects that are very distinct in young adults.  We believe this loss of neural sharpness is a fundamental problem that contributes to poor cognition in older adults and that it can play an important role in identifying people who will have poor cognitive function as they get older.

Understand how amyloid deposition affects healthy aging. Surprisingly, many healthy adults carry amyloid proteins in their brain.  Amyloid deposits are the “plaques” that are characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease.  For the first time in history, we can see them on living brains using PET imaging.  We believe that individuals high in amyloid in late middle age will have a brain that looks decades older than individuals with low amyloid and of the same age.  We predict these adults will show compromised memory and other cognitive deficits.  As new interventions become available, the high amyloid people are the ones that perhaps will need interventions the most.

Follow these adults for many years.   Aging is a developmental process and only studying the same individuals over many years will help us understand how the mind ages.  We have a ~ 80% retention rate for our recent four-year test interval, which is remarkably high, suggesting the level of commitment we have engendered in our participants.   

Summary.  The DLBS is one of the most complete studies of the aging mind that is available, particularly in the United States and is playing a key role in unlocking the secrets of the aging mind.  It is currently funded with a prestigious NIH MERIT award, a supplemental award to Denise Park from NIA; K-99 awards to Kristen Kennedy and Karen Rodrigue, and anR21 and R01 to Hanzhang Lu at UT Southwestern.  Avid Radiopharmaceuticals, wholly owned subsidiary of Eli Lilly of Eli Lily, also contributes to the study.

Interested in participating? Volunteer for the The Dallas Lifespan Brain Study

Research Articles

Peng SL, Dumas JA, Park DC, Liu P, Filbey FM, McAdams CJ, Pinkham AE, Adinoff B, Zhang R, Lu H. (2014).  Age-related increase of resting metabolic rate in the human brain. Neuroimage, 98:176-83.

Thomas BP, Liu P, Park DC, van Osch MJ, Lu H. (2014). Cerebrovascular reactivity in the brain white matter: magnitude, temporal characteristics, and age effects. Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow & Metabolism, 34(2):242-7.

Liu P, Hebrank AC, Rodrigue KM, Kennedy KM, Section J, Park DC, Lu H. (2013).  Age-related differences in memory-encoding fMRI responses after accounting for decline in vascular reactivity. Neuroimage, 78:415-25.

Park DC & Bischof GN. (2013).  The aging mind: neuroplasticity in response to cognitive training. Dialogues Clinical Neuroscience, 15(1):109-19.

Rodrigue KM, Rieck JR, Kennedy KM, Devous MD Sr, Diaz-Arrastia R, Park DC. (2013). Risk factors for β-amyloid deposition in healthy aging: vascular and genetic effects. JAMA Neurology, 70(5):600-6.

Park H, Kennedy KM, Rodrigue KM, Hebrank A, Park DC. (2013).  An fMRI study of episodic encoding across the lifespan: changes in subsequent memory effects are evident by middle-age. Neuropsychologia, 51(3):448-56.

Ballesteros S, Bischof GN, Goh JO, Park DC. (2013). Neural correlates of conceptual object priming in young and older adults: an event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging study. Neurobiology of Aging, 34(4):1254-64.

Liu P, Hebrank AC, Rodrigue KM, Kennedy KM, Park DC, Lu H. (2013). Hum Brain. A comparison of physiologic modulators of fMRI signals. Mapp, 34(9):2078-88.

Goh JO, Hebrank AC, Sutton BP, Chee MW, Sim SK, Park DC. (2013). Culture-related differences in default network activity during visuo-spatial judgments. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 8(2):134-42.

Kennedy KM, Rodrigue KM, Devous MD Sr, Hebrank AC, Bischof GN, Park DC. (2012). Effects of beta-amyloid accumulation on neural function during encoding across the adult lifespan. Neuroimage, 62(1):1-8.

Park J, Park DC, Polk TA. (2012).Investigating unique environmental contributions to the neural representation of written words: a monozygotic twin study. PLoS One, 7(2):e31512.

Park J, Carp J, Kennedy KM, Rodrigue KM, Bischof GN, Huang CM, Rieck JR, Polk TA, Park DC. (2012). Neural broadening or neural attenuation? Investigating age-related dedifferentiation in the face network in a large lifespan sample. Journal of Neuroscience, 32(6):2154-8.

Rodrigue KM, Kennedy KM, Devous MD Sr, Rieck JR, Hebrank AC, Diaz-Arrastia R, Mathews D, Park DC. (2012). β-Amyloid burden in healthy aging: regional distribution and cognitive consequences. Neurology, 78(6):387-95.

Huang CM, Polk TA, Goh JO, Park DC. (2012).  Both left and right posterior parietal activations contribute to compensatory processes in normal aging. Neuropsychologia, 50(1):55-66.

Park J, Hebrank A, Polk TA, Park DC. (2012). Neural dissociation of number from letter recognition and its relationship to parietal numerical processing. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 24(1):39-50.

Carp J, Park J, Hebrank A, Park DC, Polk TA. (2011).  Age-related neural dedifferentiation in the motor system. PLoS One, 6(12):e29411.

Lu H, Xu F, Rodrigue KM, Kennedy KM, Cheng Y, Flicker B, Hebrank AC, Uh J, Park DC. (2011).  Alterations in cerebral metabolic rate and blood supply across the adult lifespan. Cerebral Cortex, 21(6):1426-34.

Suzuki A, Goh JO, Hebrank A, Sutton BP, Jenkins L, Flicker BA, Park DC. (2011).  Sustained happiness? Lack of repetition suppression in right-ventral visual cortex for happy faces. Social Cognitive & Affective Neuroscience, 6(4):434-41.

Carp J, Park J, Polk TA, Park DC.  (2011).  Age differences in neural distinctiveness revealed by multi-voxel pattern analysis. Neuroimage, 56(2):736-43.

Park J, Carp J, Hebrank A, Park DC, Polk TA. (2010).  Neural specificity predicts fluid processing ability in older adults. Journal of Neuroscience, 30(27):9253-9.

King RD, Brown B, Hwang M, Jeon T, George AT.  (2010). Fractal dimension analysis of the cortical ribbon in mild Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative. Neuroimage, 53(2):471-9.

Park DC & Huang CM. (2010). Culture Wires the Brain: A Cognitive Neuroscience Perspective. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 5(4):391-400.

Reuter-Lorenz PA & Park DC. (2010). Human neuroscience and the aging mind: a new look at old problems. The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 65(4):405-15.

Goh JO, Suzuki A, Park DC. (2010). Reduced neural selectivity increases fMRI adaptation with age during face discrimination. Neuroimage, 51(1):336-44.

Park DC, Polk TA, Hebrank AC, Jenkins LJ. (2010).  Age differences in default mode activity on easy and difficult spatial judgment tasks. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 3:75

Rodrigue KM, Kennedy KM, Park DC. (2009).  Beta-amyloid deposition and the aging brain. Neuropsychology Review, 19(4):436-50.

Leshikar ED, Gutchess AH, Hebrank AC, Sutton BP, Park DC. (2010).  The impact of increased relational encoding demands on frontal and hippocampal function in older adults. Cortex, 46(4):507-21.

Gutchess AH & Park DC. (2009). Effects of Aging on Associative Memory for Related and Unrelated Pictures. European Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 21(2):235-254.

Goh JO & Park DC. (2009). Neuroplasticity and cognitive aging: the scaffolding theory of aging and cognition. Restoritive Neurology and Neuroscience, 7(5):391-403.

Park DC & Reuter-Lorenz P. (2009). The adaptive brain: aging and neurocognitive scaffolding. Annual Review of Psychology, 60:173-96.

Gutchess AH, Hebrank A, Sutton BP, Leshikar E, Chee MW, Tan JC, Goh JO, Park DC. (2007). Contextual interference in recognition memory with age. Neuroimage,  35(3):1338-47

Gutchess AH & Park DC. (2006). fMRI environment can impair memory performance in young and elderly adults. Brain Research, 1099(1):133-40.