The NIH Almanac
National Institute on Aging
Since 1974, the mission of the National Institute on Aging (NIA) has been to improve the health and well-being of older Americans through biomedical, social, and behavioral research.
The Institute conducts and supports research on aging through extramural and intramural programs, focusing on aging processes, age-related diseases, and special problems and needs of the aged. The extramural program funds research and training at universities, hospitals, medical centers, and other public and private organizations nationwide. The intramural program conducts basic and clinical research in Baltimore and on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland. NIA also has a broad information program to communicate about research and health with older people, their families, health professionals, researchers, policymakers, and others.
Important Events in NIA History
December 2, 1971—The White House Conference on Aging recommends the creation of a separate National Institute on Aging at the National institutes of Health.
May 31, 1974—Public Law 93-296 authorizes the establishment of a National Institute on Aging and mandates the Institute develop a national comprehensive plan to coordinate the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (succeeded by the Department of Health and Human Services) involvement in aging research.
October 7, 1974—The National Institute on Aging is established.
April 23, 1975—First meeting of the National Advisory Council on Aging is held.
1984—NIA funds Alzheimer's Disease Centers, where researchers at medical institutions nationwide focus on prevention and treatment while improving care and diagnosis.
1986—Per congressional direction, NIA funds the Federal Forum on Aging-Related Statistics, a coordinating organization made up of more than 35 Federal agencies.
November 14, 1986—P.L. 99-660, section 501-503, authorizes NIA's Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center as part of a broad program to conduct research and distribute information about Alzheimer's disease to health professionals, patients and their families, and the general public.
November 4, 1988—P.L. 100-607 establishes the Geriatric Research and Training Centers, renamed the Claude D. Pepper Older American Independence Centers in 1990 and charged with conducting research on diseases that threaten independent living.
1991—NIA sets up the Alzheimer's Disease Cooperative Study, an ongoing consortium of academic medical centers and others to facilitate clinical trials research.
1992—NIA and the University of Michigan begin the Health and Retirement Study, which follows more than 20,000 people at 2-year intervals, providing data from pre-retirement to advanced age to allow multidisciplinary study of the causes and course of retirement.
1993—The first Edward Roybal Centers for Research on Applied Gerontology are authorized, focusing on translational research to convert basic and clinical findings into programs that improve the lives of older people and their families.
NIA launches the Longevity Assurance Genes initiative, an interactive network of funded researchers looking for genetic clues to longevity, using a variety of organisms such as C. elegans, Drosophila, and yeast.
1994—The first Demography of Aging Centers are funded to provide research on health, economics, and aging and to make more effective use of data from several national surveys of health, retirement, and long-term care.
The Study of Women's Health Across the Nation (SWAN) is launched to characterize in diverse populations the biological and psychosocial influences related to the transition to menopause.
1995—Nathan Shock Centers of Excellence in Basic Biology of Aging are established to further the study of the basic processes of aging.
1996—NIA introduces Exercise: A Guide from the National Institute on Aging, providing encouragement and evidence-based guidance specifically for older adults to engage in exercise.
1997—The Resource Centers for Minority Aging Research (RCMARs) are funded to investigate the variability of health differences experienced across racial and ethnic groups, as well as the mentoring of new scholars in health disparities research.
2000—The Institute distributes established mouse cDNA microarray/clone set containing more than 15,000 unique genes to 10 designated academic centers worldwide.
2001—In a unique private-public partnership, NIA joins the Osteoarthritis Initiative to bring together resources and commitment to the search for biological markers of osteoarthritis.
NIA and the Icelandic Heart Association announce collaboration on a vast study on the interactions of age, genes, and the environment. The collaboration extends 34 years of data on the health of 23,000 Icelandic residents into the new millennium.
2003—NIA and the National Library of Medicine (NLM) launch NIHSeniorhealth.gov, a website designed to encourage older people to use the internet.
NIA, joined by the Alzheimer's Association, expands the Alzheimer's Disease Genetics Initiative to create a large bank of genetic materials and cell lines for study to speed up the discovery of risk-factor genes for late-onset Alzheimer's disease.
NIA and the American Federation for Aging Research—in collaboration with the John A. Hartford Foundation, the Atlantic Philanthropies, and the Staff Foundation—establish a public-private partnership to support clinically trained junior faculty to pursue careers in aging research.
2004—NIA launches the Longevity Consortium, a network of investigators from several large-scale human cohort studies working in collaboration with individual basic biological aging researchers to facilitate the discovery, confirmation, and understanding of genetic determinants of healthy human longevity.
NIA, in conjunction with other Federal agencies and private companies and organizations through the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health, leads the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative.
NIA launches Healthy Aging in Neighborhoods of Diversity across the Life Span (HANDLS), a multidisciplinary community-based, longitudinal, epidemiologic study examining the influences and interaction of race and socioeconomic status on the development of age-associated health disparities among socioeconomically diverse African Americans and whites in Baltimore.
2006—NIA leads the NIH conference “AD: Setting the Research Agenda a Century after Auguste D,” a conclave assessing the state of current Alzheimer's disease research and the most promising routes to progress.
2007—U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sponsors the Summit on Global Aging in collaboration with NIA to call attention to challenges and opportunities worldwide from population aging.
2008—A Biology of Aging Summit convenes to review NIA's research portfolio, identify areas of opportunity, and facilitate formulation of comprehensive research plans for the future.
Longitudinal Study of Aging is developed to examine what factors preserve physical and cognitive Insights into the Determinants of Exceptional Aging and Longevity (IDEAL), a sub-study of the Baltimore function in late life and prevent disease and disability, in a small but growing segment of the aging population.
NIA celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging.
2009—NIA collaborates with HBO Documentary Films on THE ALZHEIMER'S PROJECT, an Emmy Award winning, multi-platform (television, web, DVD, and print) public health series.
2011—NIA launches the Go4Life campaign to promote exercise and physical activity nationwide for people 50 and older, with public and private partners from a variety of aging, fitness, and provider organizations.
NIA and the Alzheimer’s Association lead an effort to update diagnostic guidelines for Alzheimer's disease to reflect the full spectrum of the disease, marking the first time in 27 years clinical and research criteria are changed.
The National Alzheimer’s Project Act is signed into law. Dubbed NAPA, it requires a coordinated national effort to find ways to treat or prevent Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias and to improve care and services. NIH, represented by NIA, participates in the federal Advisory Council on Alzheimer’s Research, Care, and Services.
The Trans-NIH GeroScience Interest Group is formed, with leadership from the NIA. The group promotes discussion, sharing of ideas, and coordination of activities within the NIH research community, working on mechanisms underlying age-related changes, including those which could lead to increased disease susceptibility.
2012—HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announces the NAPA-required National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease. NIA plays a critical role in developing the first goal of the plan — to Effectively Treat or Prevent Alzheimer’s by 2025.
The NIA Intramural Research Program (IRP) was reorganized to recognize new paradigms in the field of aging research. The program now integrates labs and resources bringing together people who share a similar research interest but are coming at it from different vantage points.
NIA organizes the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Summit 2012: Path to Treatment and Prevention. Some 500 researchers and advocates attend the meeting, which results in recommendations aimed at advancing Alzheimer’s disease research.
The International Alzheimer’s Disease Research Portfolio is launched. Built in collaboration with the Alzheimer’s Association, the database captures the full spectrum of research investment and resources and enables public and private funders of Alzheimer’s research to share and review funding data.
NIA leads development of the NIH Toolbox for Neurological and Behavioral Function. Unveiled in 2012, the Toolbox offers researchers a free set of brief tests to assess cognitive, sensory, motor and emotional function in people from toddlers to older adults.
Biographical Sketch of NIA Director Richard J. Hodes, M.D.
Richard J. Hodes, M.D., directs the research program of the National Institute on Aging (NIA) at the National Institutes of Health. A leading immunologist, Dr. Hodes was named Director of the NIA in 1993, to oversee studies of the basic, clinical, epidemiological, and social aspects of aging.
Under Dr. Hodes' stewardship, the NIA budget has surpassed $1 billion, reflecting increased public interest in aging as America and the world grow older. Dr. Hodes has devoted his tenure to the development of a strong, diverse, and balanced research program, focusing on the genetics and biology of aging; basic and clinical studies aimed at reducing disease and disability, including Alzheimer's disease and age-related cognitive change; and investigation of the behavioral and social aspects of aging. Ultimately, these efforts have one goal—improving the health and quality of life for older people and their families.
Dr. Hodes is a Diplomate of the American Board of Internal Medicine. In 1995, he was elected as a member of The Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives; in 1997, he was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science; and in 1999, he was elected to membership in the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.
Dr. Hodes is a graduate of Yale University and received his M.D. from Harvard Medical School. He completed training in Internal Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital and in Oncology at the National Cancer Institute. As an author of more than 250 research papers, he is an influential scientist in and contributor to the field of immunology.
|Name||In Office From||To|
|Norman Kretchmer (Acting)||October 1974||July 1975|
|Richard C. Greulich (Acting)||July 1975||April 1976|
|Robert N. Butler||May 1, 1976||July 1982|
|Robert L. Ringler (Acting)||July 16, 1982||June 30, 1983|
|T. Franklin Williams||July 1, 1983||July 31, 1991|
|Gene D. Cohen (Acting)||July 1, 1991||May 31, 1993|
|Richard J. Hodes||June 1, 1993||Present|
The goal of NIA’s Intramural Research Program (IRP) is to support broad-based research centered on critical issues regarding the general biology of aging, age-associated diseases and disabilities. In 2012, the NIA IRP was reorganized to recognize new paradigms in the field of aging research. The program now integrates labs and resources, bring together people who share a similar research interest, but are coming at it from different vantage points.
Specific areas of study on the biology of aging focus on 1) characterization of normal aging, 2) cell cycle regulation and programmed cell death, 3) stress response, 4) DNA damage and repair, 5) genetics, and 6) immunology. Age-associated disease and disabilities research includes the study of 1) factors influencing the onset of progression of disability and frailty; 2) Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline; 3) cancer; 4) osteoporosis and osteoarthritis; 5) cardiovascular disease and hypertension; and 6) diabetes. In addition, researchers at NIA’s IRP develop and/or test different intervention strategies—e.g., pharmacotherapy, gene therapy, and behavioral or lifestyle changes—to treat many age-associated diseases.
The NIA’s IRP comprises 9 scientific laboratories and 1 clinical branch. Most of NIA’s intramural research is conducted in Baltimore at the NIH Biomedical Research Center. Clinical research resources are located at Harbor Hospital in Southeast Baltimore. Two laboratories are located in Bethesda. IRP laboratories provide a stimulating environment for age-related research. The IRP also offers many excellent training opportunities in both laboratory research and clinical medicine for investigators at all stages of their careers. To read more about the NIA’s Intramural Program, go to www.grc.nia.nih.gov.
Laboratory of Cardiovascular Science (LCS)
The overall goals of LCS are: 1) to identify age associated changes that occur within the cardiovascular system and to determine the mechanisms for these changes; 2) to determine how aging of the heart and vasculature interacts with chronic disease states to enhance the risk for CV diseases in older persons; 3) to study basic mechanisms in excitation-contraction coupling and how these are modulated by surface receptor signaling pathways in cardiac cells; 4) to elucidate mechanisms of pacemaker activity in sinoatrial nodal cells; 5) to elucidate mechanisms that govern cardiac and vascular cell survival; and 6) to establish the potentials and limitations of new therapeutic approaches such as changes in lifestyle, novel pharmacologic agents or gene or stem cell transfer techniques in aging or disease states.
Laboratory of Molecular Biology and Immunology (LMBI)
The unifying theme of LMBI's research program is to uncover molecular mechanisms that are pertinent to understanding and ameliorating age-associated disabilities and diseases, with particular emphasis on changes in the immune system. Programs cover fundamental biological questions such as: 1) the study of gene, regulatory mechanism that mediate cellular responses to developmental signals, immune activation and stress stimuli, 2) induction of effective immune responses, including the mechanisms of class switch recombination and somatic hypermutation, and generation and maintenance of memory, 3) the role of telomere length and telomerase activity in lymphocyte function and aging. LMBI programs contain a strong translational component with studies aimed at improving vaccine efficacy in the elderly and examining the molecular and cellular basis of tumor metastasis. A wide variety of in vitro and in vivo models are employed to approach these issues. LMBI also share a close working relationship with the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging that enables direct application of molecular parameters to the human condition.
Laboratory of Clinical Investigation (LCI)
LCI seeks to understand fundamental metabolic processes that change with aging, to elucidate which alterations are pathological and which are homeostatic as humans age. Investigators in the LCI hope to uncover ways to manage and/or circumvent the pathological alterations so that the health of the elderly stays stable. Studies are performed at molecular, cellular, animal model and human levels. Further, LCI takes a multisystem approach to age related changes because changes in one system lead to adaptive changes in another. Understanding which are adaptive and which are primary is an intense area of investigation using newly developed multidimensional algorithms and computer programs. The areas of most intense investigation within LCI are: pancreatic islet morphology and changes therein with obesity and aging; molecular and cellular changes with osteoarthritis; metabolic causes of neurodegeneration; alterations in drug metabolism with age, and connective tissue diseases. In each of these cases, translational research is far advanced on target compounds that are hypothesized to alter natural history of age-related diseases or are already shown to be beneficial in humans. LCI also carries out proof-of-principle Phase 1 research with index compounds that have been developed in the basic science laboratories.
Laboratory of Epidemiology and Population Sciences (LEPS)
Research in LEPS investigates the causes and consequences of disease and function-specific outcomes that are highly prevalent in the population, including health disparities. The laboratory takes a multi-modality and multi-disciplinary approach that is applied in population-based cohorts developed by LEPS scientists in collaboration with other intra-mural and with extra-mural investigators. Studies are designed to integrate knowledge and identify common pathways of disease and function related to the cardiovascular, neuro-cognitive, musculoskeletal, body composition and metabolic systems as these are affected by age, health disparities, socioeconomic status, genetic difference, or other risks. Common mechanisms of interest include inflammation, glycemic control, increase in visceral fat and decrease in muscle mass, elevated blood pressure and atherosclerosis. Genetic contributions and their interactions with behavioral and physiologic factors are studied in the context of genome wide association study consortia. Efforts also focus on translation to clinical trials of our findings based on observational studies. In addition, we actively investigate state-of-the-art objective measures that can be applied to population-based samples.
Laboratory of Genetics (LG)
The LG views aging as an integrated extension of human development, with important genes influencing the course of aging even through action in embryonic and fetal life. The long-term goal is to prevent or ameliorate problems of aging tissues by understanding the normal pathways and genetic disorders that affect development, and in using stem cells to help regenerate tissues. Approaches 1) looking for biomarkers of aging and disease progression with novel pattern recognition algorithms and image informatics systems; 2) investigation of mechanisms of DNA damage response, chromatin remodeling, and RNA-level regulation, their connections with cancer; and analyses of genetic factors affecting age-related diseases and conditions, including immunosenescence, in a Sardinian founder population.
Laboratory of Molecular Gerontology (LMG)
The LMG investigates processes and mechanisms such as genomic instability, DNA repair, DNA replication, and transcription with special attention to examining the role of DNA damage accumulation in senescence as a major molecular change with aging. The Oxidative DNA Damage Processing and Mitochondrial Functions Unit investigates the basis for the mitochondrial hypothesis of aging which states that accumulation of DNA damage with aging leads to the phenotypical changes that are observed in senescence and age-associated disease. The Repair of Endogenous DNA Damage Section investigates the mechanism involved in base excision repair and the function of individual DNA repair proteins and their interaction. The Telomere Maintenance and DNA Repair Unit studies proteins and functions involved in the maintenance of the chromosome ends, the telomeres. The Gene Targeting Unit is exploring how DNA interstrand crosslinks, very detrimental to cells, are removed from DNA and how this relates to age-associated disease. The Section on DNA Helicases focuses on the roles of DNA helicases in genomic stability.
Laboratory of Neurogenetics (LNG)
The LNG studies neurodegenerative diseases based on a resolution of their genetic etiology. The Molecular Genetics Section is focused on finding genes for neurodegenerative disease; the Cell Biology & Gene Expression Section seeks to develop an understanding of the effects of mutant genes on cell physiology; the Transgenic Unit examines the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative disorders in whole animals and to test potential treatments for the diseases; and the Neuromuscular Disease Research Unit works toward an understanding of the genetic basis of neuromuscular disorders. Underpinning this structure are 3 groups: a Clinical Core whose role is to identify patients with neurological disorders and facilitate collaborations with clinical investigators from around the world, a Computational Biology Core whose role is to facilitate the analysis of laboratory data in the broad context of the wealth of information available through the Human Genome Project and related endeavors, and a Genomic Technologies Group whose role is to leverage and support the most recent genomic approaches.
Laboratory of Neurosciences (LNS)
The LNS seeks to understand the cellular and molecular mechanisms of neural plasticity during aging and to develop novel interventions for the prevention and treatment of neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and Huntington's diseases, as well as stroke. The LNS has a particular focus on signal transduction pathways that control the development and plasticity of nerve cell circuits, and how these pathways are altered in aging and neurological disorders. Examples include: the mechanisms regulating neural stem cells; neurotrophic factor signaling; adaptive stress response pathways; cellular calcium homeostasis; and pathways that modify energy metabolism and oxidative stress. Using animal models, LNS investigators are discovering how factors such as dietary energy intake and exercise affect the brain during aging, and they are developing and testing novel drugs that preserve or enhance brain function using animal models.
Laboratory of Behavioral Neuroscience (LBN)
The LBN conducts basic and clinical research on individual differences in cognition, personality, and affect; investigates the cellular, neural systems and genetic contributions to variation between individuals in animal models and humans; examines predictors and modifiers of age-related neurodegenerative diseases and age-associated changes in behavior, predispositions, and brain-behavior associations; identifies early markers of Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline and examines factors that promote the maintenance of cognitive health, and develops; and validates biomarkers of age-related neurodegeneration to inform diagnosis and therapeutic interventions. Laboratory investigators employ a variety of approaches, including experimental, longitudinal, neuroimaging, biomarker, neuropathological, electrophysical, anatomical, molecular and genetic methods in the analysis of biological and psychological aspects of aging.
Translational Gerontology Branch (TGB) The research efforts of TGB are focused on improving the health and wellbeing of the elderly population through epidemiological, clinical, and basic research programs, with a special emphasis on longitudinal observations and intervention studies. The TGB is investigating and developing novel strategies and interventions to support healthy aging and the prevention, or delay, of functional decline and age-related diseases. The main research goals of the TGB are to: 1) translate discoveries made from human and model organisms to the basic biology (and vice versa), mainstreaming the “bench to bedside to bench” approach; 2) explore and identify the underlying molecular mechanisms responsible for the functional decline that occurs with age, and 3) develop and test interventions to delay aging processes.
Division of Extramural Activities (DEA)
DEA manages NIA's grants and training policies and procedures, including oversight of grants and contract administration, scientific review, and committee management functions. It serves as primary liaison for NIA with the NIH Office of Extramural Research and with other Institutes that share research interests. NIA's extramural training programs, career development programs, small business initiatives, and other special programs are managed by DEA. The Division handles scientific integrity and ethical questions in research and manages the National Advisory Council on Aging.
The Scientific Review Branch (SRB) conducts initial peer review of specific research applications assigned to the NIA. These include applications for Centers, program projects, scientific meetings, and training and career development as well as applications responding to initiatives published by NIA. External peer reviewers conduct the reviews.
The Grants and Contracts Management Branch (GCMB) works with scientists and institutional research administrators to issue, manage, and close out awards. The branch has legal responsibility for the fiscal management of the Institute’s extramural grants and contracts.
National Advisory Council on Aging (NACA)
Congress created the National Advisory Council on Aging (NACA) "to advise, consult with, and make recommendations to the Secretary, HHS, the Assistant Secretary for Health; the Director, NIH; and the Director, NIA on matters relating to the conduct and support of biomedical, social, and behavioral research, training, health information dissemination, and other programs with respect to the aging process and the diseases and other special problems and needs of the aged."
The NACA consists of 18 members appointed by the HHS Secretary and 5 non-voting ex officio members. Of the 18 appointed members, 12 are leading representatives of the health and scientific disciplines and are leaders in the fields of public health and the behavioral or social sciences relevant to the activities of the NIA, particularly with respect to biological and medical sciences relating to aging and public health. Six of the members are leaders from the general public in the fields of public policy, law, health policy, economics, and management. The NACA meets 3 times each year.
Division of Aging Biology (DAB)
The DAB plans and supports molecular, cellular, genetic and systems biology research on the mechanisms of aging and age-related conditions through various NIH grant mechanisms and contracts. It also supports biological resource facilities that provide aged animals and banked tissues for use in aging research. The overall goal is to provide a basis for development of preventative and interventional strategies to extend healthy aging. The DAB includes the following programs:
Animal Models supports comparative biology research and development of new animal models for aging research. Current models include rats, mice, birds, fish, rabbits, nonhuman primates, insects, nematodes, various other invertebrates and yeasts, with rodent models of particular interest.
Biological Resources manages biological resources through contracts. It coordinates the aged non-human primate resources and the Intervention Testing Program (ITP), a multi-institutional study conducting research on non-genetic interventions to delay aging in a mouse model.
Cardiovascular Biology supports investigations on the molecular and cellular changes that lead to age-related declines in cardiac and vascular function. Aging is itself the major risk factor for heart disease.
Cell Biology supports research on the age-related changes in cell physiology in microenvironments, cellular senescence, apoptosis, autophagy, cancer, cell-autonomy, cellular structures, signaling mechanisms, and protein homeostasis that might contribute to aging phenotypes.
Endocrinology supports basic research into the causes and effects of age-related changes in the endocrine system, and on aging-dependent changes in cellular responses to endocrine factors.
Genetics supports studies to identify and characterize genes and pathways affecting longevity; genome stability; telomere biology; genomics; epigenomics; and progeroid syndromes, all in relation to healthy aging.
Immunology supports studies on changes in the immune systems of older people that may contribute to the increased incidence of infection including regulation of lymphocyte proliferation, immune specificity, autoimmune disease and other immunopathologies, endocrine control of immune function and interventions to retard and/or correct age-related decline in immune function.
Metabolic Regulation supports research on nutrition and metabolism in relation to aging including age-related changes in intermediary metabolism; mitochondrial (dys) function, and mechanisms by which caloric restriction; free radicals and oxidative stress affect lifespan.
Musculoskeletal Biology supports studies on muscle, bone and cartilage that may have negative effects on health of the elderly (e.g., causes of osteoporosis or sarcopenia).
Stem Cells supports research on changes in stem cells (SC) and SC niches during aging. The emphasis is on identification of factors altering SC function with aging, and the roles of SC both in normal tissue homeostasis and injury.
Tissue Physiology supports investigation of age-related changes that affect the function of liver, digestive, renal, and pulmonary systems.
Division of Behavioral and Social Research (BSR)
This division supports research and research training on the processes of aging at both the individual and societal level. It focuses on how people change over the adult life course and on the societal impact of the changing age-composition of the population. BSR fosters research that reaches across disciplinary boundaries, from genetics to comparisons across national populations, and at stages from basic through translational.
BSR has two branches, with substantial interactions between them:
The Individual Behavioral Processes Branch supports research and research training on health and behavior, cognitive and emotional functioning, technology and human factors, and integrative approaches to the study of social, psychological, genetic, and physiological influences on health and well-being over the life course. Research that takes a life course perspective is especially encouraged. Its research focus includes:
- Behavioral Medicine and Interventions focuses on the dynamic interrelationships among aging, health, and behavior, expanding traditional studies in behavioral medicine by adding an aging perspective as well as behavioral emphasis on the influence of the socio-cultural environment on the development and maintenance of a wide range of health and illness behaviors.
- Behavioral and Population Genetics of Aging examines links among social, psychological, and behavioral processes to health and well-being over the life course, through the study of gene-environment interplay. This includes the study of epigenetics, gene-by-environment interaction and gene-environment correlation and explores the integration of genetic methods into population-based research and population genetics of aging.
- Cognitive Aging supports studies on changes in cognitive functioning over the life course. Studies are encouraged that: 1) examine the influence of contexts (behavioral, social, cultural, and technological) on the cognitive functioning of aging persons; 2) investigate the effects of age-related changes in cognition on activities of daily living, social relationships, and health status; and 3) develop strategies for improving everyday functioning through cognitive interventions. Major topics include higher-order cognitive processes (such as executive function, problem-solving, decision-making, consumer behavior, diving, and health literacy), memory strategies, perceptual skills, and reading and speech comprehension. Research also explores the role of individual differences in cognitive functioning (e.g., motivation, self-efficacy, beliefs about aging, emotions, sensory limitations, experience, and expertise) and health disparities, collaborating with the NIA Division of Neuroscience to encourage research at the intersection of behavior and neurocognition.
Psychological Development and Integrative Science applies an integrative and life course approach to the study of personality, emotion, subjective well-being, motivation, self-regulation, social behaviors, social relationships, social cognition, stress and resilience. This includes research combining multiple levels of analysis (e.g., psychological, behavioral, social, neurobiological, neuroendocrine, genetic) and examines reciprocal interactions among these levels, as in the areas of social and affective neuroscience, behavioral and neuroeconomics, health psychology and psychosomatic medicine.
The Population and Social Processes Branch supports research and research training on the causes and consequences of changes in social, demographic, economic, and health characteristics of the older population. Research on the effects of public policies, social institutions, and health care settings on the health, well-being, and functioning of people—both over the life course and in later years—is supported. International and comparative studies are encouraged, as are interconnections with individual behavioral processes. Interdisciplinary and multi-level research is strongly encouraged.
- Demography and Epidemiology fosters research on trends in functioning, disability, morbidity, and mortality; age trajectories of health; life expectancy and active life expectancy; causes and consequences of changes in the age-structure of populations; interactions between health and socioeconomic status over time and across generations; the effect on health of social networks and social contexts; interrelationships between work, family, and health; and cohort analyses of aging. Epidemiologic studies deal with the dynamics of disability and frailty, and the identification and evaluation of strategies and interventions to promote health.
- Economics of Aging encourages research on the reciprocal relationships between health and work at older ages; consequences of retirement for health and functioning; effects of aging on economic behaviors; health insurance and health care expenditures; interrelationships between health and economic status; the costs of disability; and the cost-effectiveness of interventions to improve the health and well- being of the elderly. Research also deals with implications of population aging for public and private retirement and health insurance programs for income security of future retirees; the allocation of family resources across generations, and determinants of retirement and saving.
- Health and long-term Care Systems encourages research on the impact of formal health care and long-term care systems and settings on the health and well-being of older persons. Topics include transitions among settings; hospital-level and regional differences in intensity of care, and end-of-life care trajectories.
Division of Geriatrics and Clinical Gerontology (DGCG)
The DGCG supports research on health and disease in older people and research on aging over the human lifespan, including its relationships to health outcomes. DGCG comprises three major research areas, divided into three division branches—Geriatrics, Clinical Gerontology, and Clinical Trials. Program-wide emphases include research training and career development to attract new investigators to the field of aging and to further the development of active investigators in clinical medicine and biomedical research, and the application of new technologies to expand opportunities for clinical aging research.
Geriatrics focuses on health issues regarding older people. Research emphases include multifactorial geriatric syndromes such as falls, frailty, and various types of disability; effects of comorbidity and polypharmacy; effects of age-related changes on clinical or functional disease outcomes or treatment responses; effects of physical activity on disease and disability in older persons; and the elucidation, diagnosis, and treatment of previously unappreciated pathologic changes in old age (e.g., sarcopenia, vascular stiffening, diastolic dysfunction). The Geriatrics Branch supports the Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Centers (OAICs). The OAICs conduct basic and clinical research to enhance the ability of older people to maintain their independence.
Clinical Gerontology focuses on clinically related research on aging changes over the lifespan. Research emphases include healthy aging across the lifespan (including exceptional longevity); protective factors against multiple age-related conditions; determinants of rates of progression of age-related changes that affect disease risk, particularly those for multiple age-related conditions; menopause and mid-life aging changes; translational human research to follow up findings from basic research on aging; long-term effects of current or new interventions that may be administered over a large part of the lifespan; and long-term effects of physical activity throughout the lifespan.
Clinical Trials plans and administers clinical trials on age-related issues. Research emphases include interventions to prevent or treat “geriatric syndromes,” disability, and complications of comorbidity or polypharmacy; trials to detect age- or comorbidity-related differences in responses to interventions against conditions found in middle age and old age; interventions for problems associated with menopause and other mid- and late-life changes; interventions that may affect rates of progression of age-related declines in function in early and mid-life; and interventions with protective effects against multiple age-related conditions, including intervention studies on the effects of androgens in older men.
Division of Neuroscience (DN)
Organized into three separate branches, this division fosters and supports extramural and collaborative research and training to further the understanding of neural and behavioral processes associated with the aging brain. Research on dementias of old age—in particular Alzheimer's disease—is one of the division's highest priorities.
The Neurobiology of Aging Branch fosters research aimed at understanding how the nervous system is affected by normal as well as pathological aging. Fundamental Neuroscience supports studies on age-related structural and functional changes in brain, cell death mechanisms and selective vulnerability to aging, molecular genetics of brain aging bioenergetic processes, systemic metabolism, cerebrovasculature, glia, neural plasticity, neural stem cells, and neurogenesis. In Integrative Neurobiology, the focus is on age-related research on neural mechanisms underlying changes between organ systems and the CNS, in endocrine and immune functions, and neurodegenerative diseases associated with infectious agents including prions. Sleep and Biological Rhythm encompasses age-related studies of epidemiology, etiology, pathogenesis, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of sleep disorders of older people; sleep-wake cycles/disordered biorhythmicity and behavioral effects in the aged.
The Dementias of Aging Branch supports studies of etiology, pathophysiology, genetics, epidemiology, clinical course, diagnosis and functional assessment, drug discovery and development, behavioral management, and clinical trials in the dementias of later life, especially Alzheimer's disease. In Basic Research, it supports examination of molecular, cellular, genetic, systemic, and systems aspects involved in the etiology of Alzheimer's disease and other dementias of aging. Population Studies are supported in the epidemiology of cognitive decline, mild cognitive impairment (MCI), and Alzheimer's disease. A Clinical Studies focus on the diagnosis, treatment, and management of patients with cognitive decline, MCI, or Alzheimer's disease pharmacological and behavioral is also important. Here, research is aimed at the development and evaluation of reliable and valid multidimensional procedures including and other biomarkers and clinical and neuropsychological instruments for diagnosis, progression, and response to treatment. The maintenance of a research infrastructure is critical, and the Research Centers component of this branch supports Alzheimer's Disease Research Centers and Alzheimer's Disease Center Core programs, that provide a multifaceted approach to research, training, and educational activities on Alzheimer's disease and several multi-center collaborative research projects.
The Behavioral and Systems Neuroscience Branch emphasizes research on the neural and psychological mechanisms underlying age-related changes in cognition, emotion, sensory and motor function, from the level of genes to the whole organism, and epidemiological studies of populations. Studies of molecular, structural, and dynamic brain changes, including research on adaptation or plasticity, are of particular interest, as well as interventions to maintain or gain function in older age. A focus on Sensory Processes supports studies on mechanisms of normal aging and disease-related alterations in visual, auditory, somatosensory, vestibular, and chemosensory functions. In an effort to understand Motor Function, research is supported on proprioception, postural control, sensory motor integration, vestibular, and movement disorders in aging, including Parkinson's disease. Efforts in Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience look at cognitive processes, including learning, memory, attention, and language as well as the neurobiology of age-related changes in emotion. Understanding and treating age-related cognitive decline are emphasized. The investigation of the relationship of age-related cognitive dysfunction associated with delirium and dementia is also of interest. The Division of Neuroscience and this branch, in particular, interact and collaborate with the Division of Behavioral and Social Research where psychological science and behavioral neuroscience converge.