Cognitive ageing research examines the cognitive abilities that are preserved and/or those that decline with advanced age. There is great individual variability in cognitive ageing trajectories. Some older adults show little decline in cognitive ability compared with young adults and are thus termed ‘optimally ageing’. By contrast, others exhibit substantial cognitive decline and may develop dementia. Human neuroimaging research has led to a number of important advances in our understanding of the neural mechanisms underlying these two outcomes. However, interpreting the age-related changes and differences in brain structure, activation and functional connectivity that this research reveals is an ongoing challenge. Ambiguous terminology is a major source of difficulty in this venture. Three terms in particular — compensation, maintenance and reserve — have been used in a number of different ways, and researchers continue to disagree about the kinds of evidence or patterns of results that are required to interpret findings related to these concepts. As such inconsistencies can impede progress in both theoretical and empirical research, here, we aim to clarify and propose consensual definitions of these terms.
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This manuscript presents a summary of discussions from a 2-day symposium held at McGill University, Montreal, Canada, from 31 May–2 June 2017, which was funded by a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Planning and Dissemination Grant 373172 awarded to M.N.R. and R.C. and by institutional funds from Duke University (North Carolina, USA) and the Douglas Hospital Research Centre (Montreal, Canada). R.C. is supported by a grant from the US National Institutes of Health (NIH; RO1-AG19731). M.A. is supported by a grant from the NIH National Institute on Aging (NIA; P50-AG005146). S.B. is supported by a grant from the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC; RGPIN-2016-06132). F.I.M.C. is supported by a grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC; A8261). A.D. is supported by a grant from NIH (R56-AG049793). C.L.G. is supported by a grant from CIHR (MOP-143311). U.L. is supported by the Max Planck Society. L.N. is support by a scholar grant from the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation. D.C.P. is supported by a grant from the NIH (R01-AG006265). P.A.R.-L. is supported by a grant from the NIH (R21-AG045460). M.D.R. is supported by a grant from the NIH (RF1-AG039103). M.N.R. is supported by grants from CIHR (MOP 126105) and NSERC (RGPIN-2018-05761).
Nature Reviews Neuroscience thanks C. Brayne, R. Dixon, W. Jagust and the other anonymous reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Cabeza, R., Albert, M., Belleville, S. et al. Maintenance, reserve and compensation: the cognitive neuroscience of healthy ageing. Nat Rev Neurosci 19, 701–710 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41583-018-0068-2
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