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Evidence for neurocognitive plasticity in at-risk older adults: the experience corps program


Carlson, M. C., Erickson, K. I., Kramer, A. F., Voss, M. W., Bolea, N., Mielke, M., McGill, S., Rebok, G. W., Seeman, T., Fried, L. P.


The Journals Of Gerontology. Series A, Biological Sciences And Medical Sciences, Volume: 64, No.: 12, Pages.: 1275-1282

Year of Publication



Objective: To determine whether Experience Corps (EC), a social service program, would improve age-vulnerable executive functions and increase activity in brain regions in a high-risk group through increased cognitive and physical activity.; Methods: Eight community-dwelling, older female volunteers and nine matched wait-list controls were recruited to serve in the ongoing EC: Baltimore program in three elementary schools. We employed functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) preintervention and postintervention to examine whether EC volunteers improved executive function and showed increased activity in the prefrontal cortex relative to controls. fMRI volunteers were trained and placed with other volunteers 15 h/wk for 6 months during the academic year to assist teachers in kindergarten through third grade to promote children’s literacy and academic achievement.; Results: Participants were African American and had low education, low income, and low Mini-Mental State Examination scores (M = 24), indicative of elevated risk for cognitive impairment. Volunteers exhibited intervention-specific increases in brain activity in the left prefrontal cortex and anterior cingulate cortex over the 6-month interval relative to matched controls. Neural gains were matched by behavioral improvements in executive inhibitory ability.; Conclusions: Using fMRI, we demonstrated intervention-specific short-term gains in executive function and in the activity of prefrontal cortical regions in older adults at elevated risk for cognitive impairment. These pilot results provide proof of concept for use-dependent brain plasticity in later life, and, that interventions designed to promote health and function through everyday activity may enhance plasticity in key regions that support executive function.;

Bibtex Citation

@article{Carlson_2009, doi = {10.1093/gerona/glp117}, url = {}, year = 2009, month = {aug}, publisher = {Oxford University Press ({OUP})}, volume = {64A}, number = {12}, pages = {1275--1282}, author = {M. C. Carlson and K. I. Erickson and A. F. Kramer and M. W. Voss and N. Bolea and M. Mielke and S. McGill and G. W. Rebok and T. Seeman and L. P. Fried}, title = {Evidence for Neurocognitive Plasticity in At-Risk Older Adults: The Experience Corps Program}, journal = {The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences} }


african americans, aged, aging, analysis of variance, cognition disorders, cognitive therapy, cohort studies, diagnosis, educational status, epidemiology, female, health promotion, humans, magnetic resonance imaging, methods, middle aged, neuropsychological tests, organization administration, physiology, pilot projects, probability, rehabilitation, risk assessment, school, statistics & numerical data, treatment outcome, united states

Countries of Study


Types of Dementia

Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)

Types of Study

Case Control Study

Type of Outcomes




Type of Interventions

Non-pharmacological Treatment, Risk Factor Modification

Risk Factor Modifications

At risk population

Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions

Intergenerational Activities