The Aging and Cognition Group (www.wolberslab.net) pursues three overall aims. Firstly, we characterise neural mechanisms underlying cognitive decline in typical and atypical aging. A central focus of our work are changes in spatial navigation, a function of critical importance for everyday life that recruits (sub-)cortical structures known to be particularly sensitive to age-related structural and functional change. Secondly, we develop neurobiologically inspired behavioural interventions to counteract changes in neural information processing in the aging brain. Finally, we develop theoretically motivated diagnostic tools to improve the assessment of cognitive dysfunction in healthy aging and preclinical stages of dementia. To achieve these aims, the group employs a multipronged methodological approach encompassing interactive virtual reality, structural and functional neuroimaging, electrophysiology, and eye tracking.
A research participant wearing a head mounted display that shows a complex virtual environment (VE). After learning about its layout, subjects underwent functional MRI scanning while being re-immersed into the VE. This study yielded the first evidence for head direction coding in the human anterior thalamus, a region long known to contain to contain head direction cells in rodents. Similar effects were observed in retrosplenial cortex - see Shine et al. (2016) for further details.