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Supporting Cognitive Aging Research

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

The Research Partnership in Cognitive Aging is a newly launched public-private effort to support current and emerging research on age-related changes in the brain and cognition. Jointly funded by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), one of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the McKnight Brain Research Foundation, through the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH), this effort is expected to award an estimated $20 million in research grants over the next five years. The research partnership is aimed at expanding understanding of how we think, learn and remember with age and at developing interventions to maintain cognitive health as we grow older.

"Mental declines typically seen in older people are not necessarily inevitable," said NIA Director Richard J. Hodes, M.D. "This partnership will support two research initiatives. One of these initiatives will help define healthy cognitive aging on every level — from the molecular and cellular to the physiological and behavioral. Such research is vital to developing evidence-based interventions to delay or halt cognitive decline. The other initiative will fund pilot clinical trials, laying the groundwork for future full-scale clinical trials."

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The McKnight Brain Research Foundation will donate $1 million annually for five years; the NIA will fund and award the peer-reviewed research grants. NIA is accepting online applications for two funding opportunities: RFA-AG-09-009, Interventions to Remediate Age-Related Cognitive Decline and RFA-AG-09-010, Neural and Behavioral Profiles of Cognitive Aging. NIA will accept applications until Nov. 3, 2008, and anticipates awarding the grants in mid-2009.

The partnership builds on the momentum of the Cognitive Aging Summit, an October 2007 conference in Bethesda, Md., that highlighted cutting-edge research on age-related brain and cognitive changes. That meeting, convened by the NIA under a grant from the McKnight Brain Research Foundation to the FNIH, brought together 250 scientists from diverse disciplines to discuss critical questions in age-related brain and cognitive research and explore future avenues of research.

"The McKnight Brain Research Foundation is excited to work with the NIA to advance the scientific understanding in this area," said J. Lee Dockery, M.D., McKnight Brain Research Foundation board trustee. "The vision of the McKnight Brain Research Foundation is to improve the quality of life through the understanding and alleviation of age-related memory loss. This research partnership with the NIA, through the FNIH, allows us to leverage both public and private resources to raise the level of awareness of the importance of cognitive health in the aging and hasten research discoveries leading to clinical interventions which will prevent or delay age-related cognitive decline."