A chemical system in the brain, the cholinergic system, is primarily responsible for cognitive symptoms seen in people with dementia. It is not clear what role the cholinergic system (and a subset of receptors called the nicotinic system) plays in cognition during normal cognitive aging. This is critical because the ever-growing healthy aging population will show declines in cognition that fall short of dementia but still impact functional abilities and independence. Maintaining good nicotinic system functioning throughout adulthood might lessen the cognitive symptoms of aging.
This study will examine the role of the nicotinic system in the healthy aging brain, and examine its role in memory and thinking processes in older + younger adults.