These observations have led to the identification of a phenomenon known as cognitive reserve. Cognitive reserve simply means that some individuals appear to be more resistant to cognitive decline in the face of brain injury or disease. It has been observed in several conditions that individuals with more cognitive activity, higher education, or enriching life experiences are likely to have higher cognitive reserve. However, the mechanisms that result in this neuroprotective effect are not understood. We will develop a mouse model of cognitive reserve based on daily cognitive stimulation to study the morphological and network level changes that are induced by cognitive activity. We will then apply this approach to a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease to test whether cognitive activity can slow or prevent the onset of cognitive decline and brain pathology.
We anticipate that our findings will generate an improved understanding of the mechanism of cognitive decline, cognitive reserve and memory storage in general. In addition, we expect to develop a greater understanding of neuroprotective mechanisms.