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Approved research

Healthy Brain Aging: Normative models of brain structure, function and connectivity across the adult lifespan

Principal Investigator: Professor Andrew Zalesky
Approved Research ID: 60698
Approval date: June 9th 2020

Lay summary

Healthy aging of the brain and mind is crucial to maintaining overall wellbeing in older age. Unfortunately, the brain ages much faster in some people compared to others, and accelerated brain aging can be linked to several neurodegenerative and psychiatric disorders. The problem is that we don't understand why for some people, the brain appears much older than their actual age. The gap between a person's actual age and their so-called brain age is too large in many individuals to be due to chance alone. What factors might cause an individual's brain to age prematurely? In this project, we will use brain imaging, otherwise known as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), to peer into an individual's brain and measure the age of their brain, which can then be compared to their actual age and benchmarked to other people of the same age. This is analogous to growth charting in paediatrics, where the height and weight of a child is compared to normative ranges established for children of the same age. In this project, we aim to establish normative ranges for various properties of the brain that can be measured with MRI. We will then investigate whether lifestyle, environmental, sociodemographic and genetic factors can explain why the brain ages faster in some individuals. We will also seek to understand whether common medical conditions are related with accelerated brain aging. Several of the factors that we will examine are modifiable (e.g. diet, lifestyle) and can therefore potentially point to new interventions that can promote healthy brain aging.