NTX Magazine Volume 9 - Page 62

NORTH TEXAS ON THE BRAIN decline and push it so we can extend independent living? Can we also improve basic cognitive capabilities so we can use technology tools more efficiently? If memory and attention are in good shape, it’s possible,” Dr. Basak said. STUDYING WORKING MEMORY IN THE COCKPIT Disease. Researchers at the center are not only working on methods for the early detection of diseases such as Alzheimer’s, but are also studying how the brain supports memory and other fundamental cognitive processes. M “As we get older, our frontal lobes decline,” Dr. Basak explained. “The older you get, the more trouble you may have with multi-tasking, switching from one task to another. For example, when you are driving the brain has to decide things like, ‘Should I go now, or should I stop?’ There are a lot more challenges as we get older. Working memory can hold four to five items when you’re young and two to three when you’re an older adult.” any people don’t realize that attention is fundamental to memory. For example, you won’t remember where your keys are if you weren’t paying attention to the drawer you put them in. Being on “autopilot,” so to speak, doesn’t allow memories to be encoded, as neuroscientists say. Working memory, or the ability to not forget what you were doing when you have to switch to another task or are interrupted by a distraction, is crucial to many things, including the ability to drive, scuba dive and, especially, fly a plane. The Center was founded in 2010 by Dr. Denise Park and currently led by cognitive neuroscientist Dr. Michael Rugg. Six labs bring together an expert group of research scientists who are using advanced brain-imaging technologies and research techniques in cognitive neuroscience to better understand, maintain and improve the health of the aging mind. TEAM APPROACH TO CONCUSSION TREATMENT I t’s no secret that there are just a few fans of the game of football in North Texas. (Okay – perhaps more than “just a few.”) North Texas is home to the world headquarters of the Dallas Cowboys, after all. But at this NFL team’s home base at The Star in Frisco, a suburb of Dallas and center of the “$5 Billion Mile,” a new team is taking the field. In a “I study working memory, the kind of memory world’s first collaboration between an NFL team, you remember for a maximum of 20 seconds. a school district (Frisco ISD) and a healthcare Your mind is a juggler, and you have to grab the system, a unique initiative to enhance sports safety right ball at the right time,” Chandramallika has been launched. The Baylor Scott & White Basak, Ph.D., explained. Her lab at the Center Sports Therapy & Research at The Star for Vital Longevity at The University of is a 300,000-sq.-ft. integrated sports Texas at Dallas focuses on the intersection Making your brain increase in volume in medicine, research and performance of memory and attention, pertinent to specific areas, or improving brain function complex where providers will advance just about any complicated pursuit. For in those areas, to help your brain act more wellness, prevent injury and treat years, researchers in her lab have been patients using a team-based approach, like a younger adult – that’s the goal. Our tracing working memory and attentional while innovating methods through control, as well as the sources of individual hope is to make older brains look closer to ongoing research. differences in enhanced learning and memory, and how they are affected by age and memory disorders. It doesn’t take a brainiac to see that North Texas is an exciting place for healthcare. What might not cross your mind are the many researchers putting their heads together to advance the health of one of our body’s most vital assets: our brains. We tapped into the thinking behind some of the region’s most fascinating studies to see what’s going on upstairs. 60 WWW.NTC-DFW.ORG SUMMER 2018 The goal with studies like this is to work toward behavioral interventions that may help improve brain function. Dr. Basak explains that it may be a combination of games and physical fitness, or other non-drug therapies. younger brains in terms of memory and attention tasks. Chandramallika Basak, Ph.D. Dr. Basak recently expanded her work from the lab to a new venue: the cockpit. With the mandatory retirement age for pilots raised to 65, airline executives have been taking an interest in her research and bringing what she knows to flight simulators in North Texas. Recently, Dr. Basak spent three days with an airline, explaining what to look for in those who may be experiencing cognitive difficulty and attention problems as a result of age. The Center is also home to the one of the largest and longest investigations of neural structure, brain function and cognition across the lifespan: the Dallas Lifespan Brain Study. Determining how the brain functions in healthy individuals across their lives is the first step in understanding the ways in which it can decline – whether normally, as a byproduct of age, or pathologically, with the onset of certain dementias. As our general population ages, increasing numbers of people face the possibility of falling victim to age-related disorders such as Alzheimer’s “We are increasing in life span, but can we also push back Alzheimer’s and mental decline to later in life? Can we slow the Erin Reynolds, Psy.D., is clinical director of the Sports Concussion Center at Baylor Scott & White Sports Therapy & Research at The Star. Her research interests include the idea of “active recovery” from concussions, a research-backed departure from previous standards of care that used to require the injured person be relegated to a dark room for days on end to remove all stimuli as the brain recovered. New research suggests that an earlier return to light or moderate activity is not detrimental and may, in fact, facilitate improvement in concussion recovery. SUMMER 2018 WWW.NTC-DFW.ORG 61