Cognition And Memory In Normal Aging Introduction

The intent of this chapter is to focus on abnormal cognitive functioning associated with aging, for example, dementia and mild cognitive impairment. However, it is useful to remind ourselves of the nature of normal functioning in the elderly in order to provide the context for abnormal conditions. Accordingly we will review briefly those changes in cognition and memory associated with successful aging.

Although we commonly think of aging as a matter of years, Mesulam (2000) and others have noted that is a simplistic point of view. Rather aging is best conceived as the interaction of time, genetics, and "stochastic encounters" with events that may compromise or enhance biological and/or psychological functioning (Mesulam, 2000). A multidimensional concept of aging helps explain the remarkable variability observed in aging in longitudinal studies such as the Nun Study1 (Snowdon, 2001), which cast serious doubt on the idea that intellectual decline is inevitable in old age.

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