Project Details

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Dr Doug Barrett

Project area or title

Development and evaluation of a clinical test battery to measure age-related changes in sensation and cognition


Ageing is associated with decreases in sensory acuity as well as changes in cognitive processes (i.e., selective attention and short-term memory). Decreases in sensory acuity are considered a risk factor for age-related cognitive decline and dementia, but the causal mechanisms linking the two are not well understood. The objective of this studentship is to develop standardised measures of cognition in older adults that account for variation in visual and auditory sensory acuity. To do this, we will use psychophysical methods to estimate auditory and visual sensory thresholds of older adults with and without memory problems. The resulting threshold estimates will then be used to equate the discriminability of visual and auditory objects across individuals for computer-based tests that measure selective attention, short-term memory, and executive control. By combining behavioural and physiological techniques (pupillometry and electrophysiology), these tests will aim to isolate specific cognitive processes and quantify their underlying neuronal and anatomical signatures. The results will inform the development of standardised measures that can be used to compare individuals at potential risk of dementia with normative data from older adults without cognitive impairment. The tests are designed to provide clinicians with sensitive, objective measures to diagnose and quantify the progression of individuals’ cognitive impairment independently of changes in sensory acuity, as well their response to treatment and intervention. The candidate will work with a team of researchers and clinicians with expertise in developing behavioural and physiological measures of sensory and cognitive performance in older adults. 




University of Leicester

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