The Institute is directed by internationally recognized expert in brain aging, Carol Barnes, Regents’ Professor in Psychology and Neurology.
More than 30 affiliate faculty contribute to the Institute through their work on normal aging in fields as diverse as optics, psychology, and physiology. These top researchers create a hub of expertise on aging and the brain, with a particular focus on brain mapping to identify memory circuits and how they change over the lifespan.
Studying Normal Aging in the Lab Has the Potential to Transform Lives
In the lab, McKnight researchers are learning how memory changes over time, recording live brain activity at a cellular level, and mapping cell activity across the entire brain with new molecular imaging methods.
They are also developing a method called CLARITY, which makes the brain translucent, and are building a novel microscope that can see deep inside an entire brain to identify relevant memory circuits.
Understanding how the brain ages normally is also a fundamental step toward furthering treatments for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other neurological diseases.
We can’t return a brain back to normal if we don’t first understand what that normal is.
The Time Is Now—A Unique Opportunity to Shape the Future
There could not be a better time to study normal cognitive aging. On the federal level, the White House has launched a ten-year BRAIN Initiative, which is poised to do for the brain what the Human Genome Project did for genetics, vastly increasing our understanding and launching new technologies and treatments.
At the state level, the Arizona Biosciences Roadmap calls for the state to become economically and scientifically competitive through concentrated efforts in specific scientific disciplines, such as neuroscience, in which it is positioned to achieve national prominence. And at the University of Arizona, we recently unveiled a development program that includes neuroscience as a focus of expansion, with active recruitment of new neuroscientists underway.