University of Auckland
Measuring Plasticity and Ageing through Multisensory Integration
A decline in sensory abilities (such as loss of hearing and sight) usually accompanies ageing. The brain receives input signals from various sensory modalities (e.g. sight, sound, touch) and combines these into a single percept through processes collectively known as multisensory integration (MSI). People become more dependent on these processes as they age and the information from individual modalities degrades.
Cognitive decline, a precursor to dementia is also a symptom that can accompany ageing. Fortunately, neuroscience research into the brain’s ability to change (plasticity) may hold the key to early detection of sensory and cognitive decline. A greater understanding of brain plasticity in the elderly is also key to developing methods to enhance recovery and compensatory processes; we know that the brain becomes less plastic as we age.
This research aims to develop a simple objective measurement of plasticity in sensory brain regions, which could be used to identify early signs of cognitive decline. We will also examine the effects of multisensory processing on enhancing plasticity and perception in the elderly. We will be using electroencephalography (EEG), a non-invasive neuroimaging technique, to examine brain responses to sensory stimuli before and after the induction of plasticity with uni- and multisensory stimuli.