HIGHER-ORDER COGNITIVE FUNCTIONING AND AGING

Release Date:  February 2, 2000

PA NUMBER:  PA-00-052

National Institute on Aging

THIS PA USED THE "MODULAR GRANT" AND "JUST-IN-TIME" CONCEPTS.  IT INCLUDES 
DETAILED MODIFICATIONS TO THE STANDARD APPLICATION INSTRUCTIONS THAT MUST BE 
USED WHEN PREPARING APPLICATIONS IN RESPONSE TO THIS PA.

PURPOSE 

The National Institute on Aging (NIA) invites qualified researchers to submit 
new applications for research projects that focus on adulthood and aging-
related changes in the higher-order processes and strategies required for 
judgment, decision-making, reasoning, problem-solving, and processing complex 
information.  As in earlier periods of life older adults continue to make 
decisions related to everyday life, but with advanced age, new, and sometimes 
even more complex, decision-making is required of them.  Recent research 
indicates that age-related limitations in cognitive processing resources 
(e.g., speed and working memory) may impact decision-making.  Research  also 
indicates that some older adults experience growth in specific areas of 
cognitive functioning  (e.g., expertise, semantic knowledge, emotional 
regulation) and continue to use adaptive intelligence, demonstrating multi-
directionality in adult cognitive change. It is generally recognized that 
research on higher-order processing is underdeveloped in the field of aging.  
Research proposals are needed that examine the actual processes that are 
engaged when older adults make important decisions, how these processes 
change with age and context, and what environmental supports, interventions, 
and training may be necessary for optimal functioning.  Research may 
investigate either individual or collaborative, or social processes.

HEALTHY PEOPLE 2000

Each NIH PA addresses one or more of 22 Health Promotion and Disease 
Prevention priority areas identified. These areas can be found via the WWW at 
http://odphp.osophs.dhhs.gov/pubs/hp2000

ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS    

Applications may be submitted by foreign and domestic, for-profit and non-
profit, public and private organizations such as universities, colleges, 
hospitals, laboratories, units of State and local governments, and eligible 
agencies of the Federal government.  Racial/ethnic minority individuals, 
women, and persons with disabilities are encouraged to apply as principal 
investigators.

MECHANISM OF SUPPORT

The mechanisms of support will be the investigator-initiated research project 
grant (R01), AREA grant, and program project grant (P01).  Applicants may 
consult with program staff listed under INQUIRIES regarding other mechanisms 
and relevant announcements on topics related to this program announcement.  
Responsibility for the planning, direction, and execution of the proposed 
project will be solely that of the applicant.

For all competing individual research project grant (R01) applications 
requesting up to $250,000 direct costs per year, specific application 
instructions have been modified to reflect "MODULAR GRANT" and "JUST-IN-TIME" 
streamlining efforts being examined by NIH.  Complete and detailed 
instructions and information on Modular Grant applications can be found at: 
http://grants.nih.gov/grants/funding/modular/modular.htm.  Applications that 
request more than $250,000 in any year must use the standard PHS 398 (rev. 
4/98) application instructions. 

RESEARCH OBJECTIVES

Research in this area should be informed by the empirical and theoretical 
work on higher-order cognition found in the cognitive science literature.  
Research should also be informed by the problem-solving processes, 
strategies, and capabilities used by adults who are actively engaged in 
making judgments and solving their own problems in everyday life.  Increasing 
age often requires adapting ways of approaching instrumental activities of 
independent living (e.g., managing finances, maintaining a household, 
shopping, using public or private transportation, preparing meals, and taking 
medications) and often requires making complex decisions involving both 
multiple choices and multiple decisions (e.g., bequests, asset allocation, 
opting for life and health insurance options, whether to retire or to 
relocate, opting for or against a medical procedure).  These decisions and 
judgments require long-term planning, minimizing costs while maximizing 
benefits,  require the consideration and input of others, and often have 
survival consequences.  Older adults make these decisions even though some 
are functioning with reduced cognitive resources and basic abilities.  

The vast majority of the research conducted on older-adult decision-making 
has focused on the antecedents and consequences of the decisions that older 
adults make -- and not on the actual processes and strategies involved in 
reasoning, judgment, problem solving, and decision-making.  Fundamental 
research is needed to determine how older adults define their problems and 
process complex information, as well as to identify the types of information 
that are most salient when older adults make decisions.  Research 
applications are also encouraged that have implications for facilitating 
adaptive or even optimal functioning.  Research applications involving both 
new data collection and analysis of existing data sets are encouraged.

A.  DEFINING THE PROBLEM FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF THE OLDER ADULT

Research applications are invited that include examining situations and the 
perception of problems from the perspective of the older adult.  Applications 
should include methods that assess explicit goals, as well as less obvious, 
implicit, and seemingly conflicting goals.  Problems are defined by the 
context and goals of the situation and -- for the problems of older adults -- 
involve adapting to new situations, considering the motivations of the self 
and of others, and weighing potential long-term consequences.  Prototypical 
goals that define problems may include, but are not limited to, combinations 
of the following: adjustments in procedures and routines, compensation for 
resource deficits, situation avoidance, planning, organization, social 
judgments, optimal interpersonal experiences, weighing the benefits and 
risks, seeking new knowledge, creating or developing a product, advancing an 
idea or social cause, and implementing decisions and solutions. 

B.  HOW IS KNOWLEDGE OBTAINED, SELECTED, OR SUPPRESSED FOR HIGHER-ORDER 
PROCESSING?

Finding solutions to problems involves the ongoing processes of acquiring new 
knowledge, determining the relative relevance of old and new information, and 
updating obsolescent information.  Research is needed on the manner in which 
older adults acquire and select decision-relevant information while 
suppressing irrelevant information.  The complexity of this research 
objective cannot be overestimated: Adults bring a lifetime of experiences and 
acquired knowledge to bear on problem-solving situations.  These experiences 
and information are accessed and considered consciously as well as non-
consciously.  Moreover, the ability to consciously access previously held 
knowledge, to consciously inhibit irrelevant or wrong information, to acquire 
new knowledge, and to process complex information may be compromised with 
increased age.

C.  WHAT ARE THE COGNITIVE, SOCIAL, AND EMOTIONAL PROCESSES ENGAGED AND HOW 
DO THEY IMPACT HIGHER-ORDER PROCESSING?

Applications are sought that focus on age-related changes in cognitive, 
social, and emotional domains used for judgment, decision-making, reasoning, 
and problem-solving.    For example, researchers have proposed that older 
adults are more likely than younger adults to solve problems by analogy and 
by other efficient heuristics, strategies that may compensate for declines in 
processing resources.  Research should consider that everyday problems, which 
often occur in a social context, require the consideration and regulation of 
self and others and, often, involve collaboration in decision-making as well 
as the involvement of others in implementation.  Research applications should 
consider that decisions are often made for problems with multiple causal 
origins for which there are several potential solutions.  Furthermore, they 
should address the processes and strategies involved when pursuing different 
types of goals, motivations, and problems (e.g., altruistic motivations, 
solutions which appear to defy rationality, problems which require definitive 
solutions and those involving continually devising and revising strategies, 
developing  plans to avoid future problems, planning to deal with problems as 
they arise, making social judgments).  

Research applications are sought that examine the processes and strategies 
engaged as well the demand characteristics such as logic (e.g., concrete, 
formal, and post-formal operations; probabilistic considerations), the amount 
of information to be considered, the number of decisions required, the 
complexity of factors in consideration, the salience of emotional involvement 
of self and others, and the importance of ill-defined, contradictory, 
ambiguous and/or probabilistic information.  Research should also determine 
whether there are age differences in such factors as how risks versus 
benefits are weighted, in the bounds of rationality, altruism, impatience, 
and how the importance of the consequences affects older adults’ decision 
making.  

Research applications in this area are not limited to reasoning, judgment, 
decision-making and problem-solving.  Other constructs such as creativity and 
emotional regulation are applicable to research in aging.  One way to 
construe creativity is the ability to generate and implement original and 
effective solutions to familiar and unfamiliar problems.  As in earlier 
periods of life, older adults continue to face unfamiliar situations; and, 
these novel situations increasingly involve the challenges of everyday life 
(e.g., maintaining high levels of functioning with physical losses; caring 
for a spouse who is cognitively impaired).  Research on the roles of 
emotions, affect, and emotional regulation in cognitive functioning is also 
relevant to understanding judgement, decision-making, and reasoning.

D.  WHAT SITUATIONS AND INTERVENTIONS FACILITATE OPTIMAL PROCESSING FOR OLDER 
ADULT DECISION-MAKING?

Research applications that focus on facilitating optimal functioning and 
optimal use of intact abilities are sought.  Examples of research topics are 
listed below, but applications are not limited to these topics:  

o   Assessing individual abilities and differences (e.g., identifying when 
problems are too complex, identifying individual abilities and limitations, 
identifying specific processing limitations that can be ameliorated or 
compensated; identifying abilities that can be applied in new ways).

o  Providing environmental support (e.g., identifying distracting stimuli, 
identifying supportive structures).

o  Assisting information acquisition (e.g., identifying optimal formats for 
presenting information; identifying aids that support the acquisition of new 
knowledge; identifying distractions to learning new information).

o  Training to improve underlying skills for complex decisions.

o  Training family members and individuals working with aging adults to 
provide optimal decision-making support and structure.

Research applications that focus on developing assistive products are sought.   
Examples of research topics are listed below, but applications are not 
limited to these topics:

o  Developing decision-making algorithms for computers.

o  Developing tools for processing and maintaining access to relevant 
information.

o  Developing tools that assist in implementing solutions.

Research applications that focus on assisting individuals in specific areas 
of  problem-solving are sought.  Examples of research topics are listed 
below, but applications are not limited to these topics:

o  Maintaining a household or other self care problems.

o  Medical, financial, retirement, career, and other important types of 
complex decision-making.

o  Deciding the level of care necessary or the appropriate housing situation.

o  Death and dying decisions.

INCLUSION OF WOMEN AND MINORITIES IN RESEARCH INVOLVING HUMAN SUBJECTS

It is the policy of the NIH that women and members of minority groups and 
their sub-populations must be included in all NIH supported biomedical and 
behavioral research projects involving human subjects, unless a clear and 
compelling rationale and justification is provided that inclusion is 
inappropriate with respect to the health of the subjects or the purpose of 
the research.  This policy results from the NIH Revitalization Act of 1993 
(Section 492B of Public Law 103-43).

All investigators proposing research involving human subjects should read the 
"NIH Guidelines For Inclusion of Women and Minorities as Subjects in Clinical 
Research," which have been published in the Federal Register of March 28, 
1994 (FR 59 14508-14513) and in the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts, 
Volume23, Number 11, March 18, 1994, 
http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/not94-100.html 

APPLICATION PROCEDURES

Applications are to be submitted on grant application form PHS 398 (rev. 
4/98).  Application kits are available at most institutional offices of 
sponsored research and may be obtained from the Division of Extramural 
Outreach and Information Resources,  National Institutes of Health, 6701 
Rockledge Drive, MSC 7910, Bethesda, MD 20892-7910, Phone (301) 435-0714, 
Email:  GRANTSINFO@NIH.GOV. Applications are also available on the internet 
at  http://grants.nih.gov/grants/funding/phs398/phs398.html .

Applicants planning to submit an investigator-initiated new (type 1), 
competing continuation (type 2), competing supplement, or any amended/revised 
version of the preceding grant application types requesting $500,000 or more 
in direct costs for any  year are advised that they must contact the 
Institute or Center (IC) program staff before submitting the application, 
i.e., as plans for the study are being developed. Furthermore, applicants 
must obtain agreement from the IC staff that the IC will accept the 
application for consideration for award. Finally, applicants must identify, 
in a cover letter sent with the application, the staff member and Institute 
or Center who agreed to accept assignment of the application.

This policy requires applicants to obtain agreement for acceptance of both 
any such application and any such subsequent amendment. Refer to the NIH 
Guide for Grants and Contracts, March 20, 1998 at:  
http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/not98-030.html

Submit a signed, typewritten, original of the application, including the 
checklist and five signed photocopies in one package to:

CENTER FOR SCIENTIFIC REVIEW
NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH
6701 ROCKLEDGE DRIVE, ROOM 1040, MSC 7710
BETHESDA, MD 20892-7710
BETHESDA, MD 20817 (for express/courier service)

The title and number of the program announcement must be typed on line 2 of 
the face page of the application form and the YES box must be marked.

SPECIFIC APPLICATION INSTRUCTIONS FOR MODULAR GRANTS

The modular grant concept establishes specific modules in which direct costs 
may be               requested as well as a maximum level for requested 
budgets. Only limited budgetary               information is required under 
this approach. The just-in-time concept allows applicants to               
submit certain information only when there is a possibility for an award. It 
is anticipated that these changes will reduce the administrative burden for 
the applicants, reviewers and Institute staff. The research grant application 
form PHS 398 (rev. 4/98) is to be used in applying for these grants, with the 
modifications noted below.

BUDGET INSTRUCTIONS

Modular Grant applications will request direct costs in $25,000 modules, up 
to a total direct cost request of $250,000 per year. (Applications that 
request more than $250,000 direct costs in any year must follow the 
traditional PHS398 application instructions.) The total direct costs must be 
requested in accordance with the program guidelines and the modifications 
made to the standard PHS 398 application instructions described below:

PHS 398

o  FACE PAGE:  Items 7a and 7b should be completed, indicating Direct Costs 
(in $25,000 increments up to a maximum of $250,000) and Total Costs [Modular 
Total Direct plus Facilities and Administrative (F&A) costs] for the initial 
budget period.  Items 8a and 8b should be completed indicating the Direct and 
Total Costs for the entire proposed period of support.

o  DETAILED BUDGET FOR THE INITIAL BUDGET PERIOD - Do not complete Form Page 
4 of the PHS 398.  It is not required and will not be accepted with the 
application.

o  BUDGET FOR THE ENTIRE PROPOSED PERIOD OF SUPPORT - Do not complete the 
categorical budget table on Form Page 5 of the PHS 398.  It is not required 
and will not be accepted with the application.

o  NARRATIVE BUDGET JUSTIFICATION - Prepare a Modular Grant Budget Narrative 
page. (See http://grants.nih.gov/grants/funding/modular/modular.htm for 
sample pages.)  At the top of the page, enter the total direct costs 
requested for each year. This is not a Form page.

o  Under Personnel, list key project personnel, including their names, 
percent of effort, and roles on the project. No individual salary information 
should be provided. However, the applicant should use the NIH appropriation 
language salary cap and the NIH policy for graduate student compensation in 
developing the budget request.

For Consortium/Contractual costs, provide an estimate of total costs (direct 
plus facilities and administrative) for each year, each rounded to the 
nearest $1,000.  List the individuals/ organizations with whom consortium or 
contractual arrangements have been made, the percent effort of key personnel, 
and the role on the project. Indicate whether the collaborating institution 
is foreign or domestic. The total cost for a  consortium/contractual 
arrangement is included in the overall requested modular direct cost amount. 
Include the Letter of Intent to establish a consortium.

Provide an additional narrative budget justification for any variation in the 
number of modules requested.

o  BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH - The Biographical Sketch provides information used by 
reviewers in the assessment of each individual's qualifications for a 
specific role in the proposed project, as well as to evaluate the overall 
qualifications of the research team.  A biographical sketch is required for 
all key personnel, following the instructions below.  No more than three 
pages may be used for each person.  A sample biographical sketch may be 
viewed at: http://grants.nih.gov/grants/funding/modular/modular.htm.

- Complete the educational block at the top of the form page;
- List position(s) and any honors;
- Provide information, including overall goals and responsibilities, on 
research projects ongoing or completed during the last three years;
- List selected peer-reviewed publications, with full citations.

o  CHECKLIST - This page should be completed and submitted with the 
application.  If the F&A rate agreement has been established, indicate the 
type of agreement and the date. All appropriate exclusions must be applied in 
the calculation of the F&A costs for the initial budget period and all future 
budget years.

o  The applicant should provide the name and phone number of the individual 
to contact concerning fiscal and administrative issues if additional 
information is necessary following the initial review.
 
REVIEW CONSIDERATIONS

Applications will be assigned on the basis of established Public Health 
Service referral guidelines.  Applications that are complete will be 
evaluated for scientific and technical merit by an appropriate peer review 
group convened in accordance with NIH peer
review procedures. As part of the initial merit review, all applications will 
receive a written critique and undergo a process in which only those 
applications deemed to have the highest scientific merit, generally the top 
half of applications under review, will be discussed, assigned a priority 
score, and receive a second level review by the appropriate national advisory 
council or board.

Review Criteria

The goals of NIH-supported research are to advance our understanding of 
biological  systems, improve the control of disease, and enhance health. In 
the written comments  reviewers will be asked to discuss the following 
aspects of the application in order to  judge the likelihood that the 
proposed research will have a substantial impact on the  pursuit of these 
goals. Each of these criteria will be addressed and considered in assigning 
the overall score, weighting them as appropriate for each application. Note 
that the application does not need to be strong in all categories to be 
judged likely to have major scientific impact and thus deserve a high 
priority score. For example, an  investigator may propose to carry out 
important work that by its nature is not innovative  but is essential to move 
a field forward.

1.  Significance:  Does this study address an important problem?  If the aims 
of the application are achieved, how will scientific knowledge be advanced?  
What will be the effect of these studies on the concepts or methods that 
drive this field?

2.  Approach:  Are the conceptual framework, design, methods, and analyses 
adequately developed, well-integrated, and appropriate to the aims of the 
project?  Does the applicant acknowledge potential problem areas and consider 
alternative tactics?

3.  Innovation:  Does the project employ novel concepts, approaches or 
method? Are the aims original and innovative?  Does the project challenge 
existing paradigms or develop new methodologies or technologies?

4.  Investigator:  Is the investigator appropriately trained and well suited 
to carry out this work?  Is the work proposed appropriate to the experience 
level of the principal investigator and other researchers (if any)?

5.  Environment:  Does the scientific environment in which the work will be 
done contribute to the probability of success?  Do the proposed experiments 
take advantage of unique features of the scientific environment or employ 
useful collaborative arrangements? Is there evidence of institutional 
support?

In addition to the above criteria, in accordance with NIH policy, all 
applications will also be reviewed with respect to the following:

o  The adequacy of plans to include both genders, minorities, and their 
subgroups as appropriate for the scientific goals of the research.  Plans for 
the recruitment and retention of subjects will also be evaluated.

o  The reasonableness of the proposed budget and duration in relation to the 
proposed research.

o  The adequacy of the proposed protection for humans, animals or the 
environment, to the extent they may be adversely affected by the project 
proposed in the application.

AWARD CRITERIA
 
Applications will compete for available funds with all other approved 
applications.  The following will be considered in making funding decisions:

o  Quality of the proposed project as determined by peer review
o  Availability of funds
o  Program priority.
 
INQUIRIES    

Inquiries are encouraged.  The opportunity to clarify any issues or questions 
from potential applicants is welcome.    

Direct inquiries regarding programmatic issues to:    

Jared B. Jobe, Ph.D.  
Behavioral and Social Research  
National Institute on Aging  
7210 Wisconsin Avenue
Gateway Building, Suite 533  
Bethesda, MD  20892-9205 
Telephone:  (301) 496-3137  
FAX:  (301) 402-0051  
E-mail:  Jared_Jobe@nih.gov

Questions on fiscal matters may be directed to:    

Joseph Ellis
Grants and Contracts Management  
National Institute on Aging  
7201 Wisconsin Avenue, Suite 2N212, MSC 9205
Bethesda, MD  20892  
Telephone:  (301) 496-1472
FAX: (301) 402-3672
Email: ellisJ@extramur.nia.nih.gov

AUTHORITY AND REGULATIONS
 
This program is described in the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance No. 
93.866.  Awards are made under authorization of the Public Health Service 
Act, Title IV, Part A (Public Law 78-410), as amended by Public Law 99-158, 
42 USC 241 and 285) and administered under PHS grants policies and Federal 
Regulations 42 CFR 52 and 45 CFR Part 74.  This program is not subject to the 
intergovernmental review requirements of Executive Order 12372 or Health 
Systems Agency review.
 
The PHS strongly encourages all grant and contract recipients to provide a 
smoke-free workplace and promote the non-use of all tobacco products.  In 
addition, Public Law 103-227, the Pro-Children Act of 1994, prohibits smoking 
in certain facilities (or in some cases, any portion of a facility) in which 
regular or routine education, library, day care, health care or early 
childhood development services are provided to children.  This is consistent 
with the PHS mission to protect and advance the physical and mental health of 
the American
Higher order cognition 11/29/99 9/10 


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