Aging Brains Create 'Scaffolds' to Shore Up Eroding Abilities

Aging Brains Create 'Scaffolds' to Shore Up Eroding Abilities 1

Brandon Thibodeaux for The Chronicle

Denise Park, co-director of the Center for Vital Longevity at the U. of Texas at Dallas, has a theory that suggests that aging brains recruit extra regions to support fading capabilities. "If we look at behavior and at brain structure, it's a very despairing scenario," she says, but looking at overall cognition, "the picture is more encouraging."

Here's a photo of a woman, Angela H. Gutchess tells people as she goes about her work, and this woman wears a large hat in a movie theater. Then Ms. Gutchess, assistant professor of psychology at Brandeis University, poses a question: Do you want this woman to play a role in your life?

The people hearing this are part of a brain study, and Ms. Gutchess and her team map the activity inside their heads while they are thinking of a response. What she's learned, she told a session at the