PERCEPTUAL AND COGNITIVE AGING:  FROM STRUCTURE TO FUNCTION

NIH Guide, Volume 22, Number 15, April 16, 1993



PA NUMBER:  PA-93-077



P.T. 34



Keywords:

  Aging/Gerontology 

  Cognitive Development/Process 



National Institute on Aging



PURPOSE



This program announcement seeks to encourage researchers with a strong

background in cognition or perception, as well as those currently

studying aging processes, to explore outcome variables of significance

to middle-aged and older adults.  Such outcome variables include, but

are not limited to, independent activities of daily living, health

status, financial status, and social relations.  Applications exploring

the role of affective processes, their interrelations with cognitive

and perceptual processes and their contribution to functional outcome

are also welcome.  The announcement further specifies and extends the

NIA initiative on Cognitive Functioning and Aging (NIH Guide for Grants

and Contracts, Vol. 16, No. 41, December 18, 1987).  It does not

replace that announcement.



HEALTHY PEOPLE 2000



The Public Health Service (PHS) is committed to achieving the health

promotion and disease prevention objectives of "Healthy People 2000,"

a PHS-led national activity for setting priorities.  This Program

Announcement, Perceptual and Cognitive Aging: From Structure to

Function, addresses several priority areas, including chronic disabling

conditions, physical activity and fitness, violent and abusive

behavior, and unintentional injuries as they relate to older people.

Potential applicants may obtain a copy of "Healthy People 2000" (Full

Report:  Stock No. 017-001-00474-0) or "Healthy People 2000" (Summary

Report:  Stock No. 017-001-00473-1) through the Superintendent of

Documents, Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402-9325

(telephone 202/783-3238).



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.  Women

and minority investigators are encouraged to apply.  Only domestic

organizations are eligible to receive First Independent Research

Support and Transition (FIRST) (R29) awards.



MECHANISM OF SUPPORT



This program announcement will use the National Institutes of Health

(NIH) individual research grant (R01) and FIRST (R29) award mechanisms.

Responsibility for the planning, direction, and execution of the

proposed project will be solely that of the applicant.  Support will be

provided for a period of up to five years (renewable for subsequent

periods), subject to continued availability of funds and progress

achieved. Average direct costs of R01 awards were approximately

$150,000 in FY 1992.  Costs of individual projects vary widely.  Direct

costs of FIRST awards are capped at $100,000 in any one year and

$350,000 across all years.



RESEARCH OBJECTIVES



Summary



The overall objectives are to use what is known about cognitive and

perceptual process in the general population and especially among

middle-aged and older adults to explore outcome variables of

significance to middle-aged and older adults.  Do the age differences

reported in numerous laboratory studies have significance for the

functioning of normal middle-aged and older adults?  Do the

improvements observed after training or other kinds of intervention

imply that similar improvements are possible in functioning in everyday

contexts?



Much is known about structure and process in cognition and perception,

and the influence of aging upon them.  That research has yielded a rich

vocabulary of concepts and models, much of it useful in characterizing

cognitive and perceptual aging (e.g., Salthouse, 1991; Hasher and

Zacks, 1988).  An integral part of testing the value of these concepts

and models is examining their usefulness in spawning applications.  An

important research task, then, is to make the connection between the

emerging web of revealed abilities and the challenges encountered by

middle-aged and older adults.  Applications in these areas will both

enrich theory and methodology in cognition and perception, and also

generate improvements in the lives of the relevant population.  A

smaller but growing area of the field is already focusing on the

functional consequences of age differences in structure and process.

For example, there is increasing research interest in the relations

among perceptual/cognitive function and driving crashes and mobility

among older adults (e.g., Owsley, Ball, Sloan, Roenker, and Bruni,

1991).  Also a number of investigators have explored the relation

between memory performance among older adults and adherence to

medication schedules (e.g., Morrell, Park and Poon, 1990).  Others are

making connections among working memory, expertise, and the competency

of older pilots (e.g., Morrow, Leirer and Altieri, 1992).



The focus on relating intellectual and perceptual abilities to

functional outcome offers several different research strategies.  One

such strategy is intervention research.  Such research can both offer

a scientific test of the role of hypothesized abilities on functional

performance and generate practical strategies to improve performance.

Another strategy is developing assessment tools for varied settings

that yield satisfactory predictive validity for the relevant functional

activity.  However, the normal scientific process of developing

theories and collecting data to establish relations among mental

abilities, structures and processes, on the one hand, and relevant

domains of function, on the other hand, is an important precursor to

attaining these goals, and an important end in its own right.

Therefore, individual applications are encouraged that focus on (1)

developing a theoretically-guided and empirically-supported

relationship between ability and outcome, (2) using such data to

develop and validate assessment tools, (3) theoretically-guided and

empirically-supported intervention research, or, on some combination of

these aims.  Applications using other research strategies to relate

perceptual and cognitive structures and processes to functional outcome

are also welcome.



The research questions that are described below are illustrative only.

Applications on other topics are also welcome.  In each case,

researchers are encouraged to build a connection between existing

theories, models and paradigms in cognition and perception and the

particular functional areas described.



o  How do cognitive strategies and processes used in evaluating

advertising claims and similar product information vary by age?  Do

these variations affect decisions?  When affect is involved in such

evaluation, are age-related differences more or less apparent than

under more neutral conditions?



o  Do older, middle-aged, and younger adults use similar heuristics and

strategies in decision making?  How are such heuristics affected by

relevance of the decisions to problems and demands experienced by the

different groups?



o  How well do measures of fluid ability predict need for assistive

services in later adulthood?



o  In what ways can knowledge of comprehension and memory processes

benefit the design of health insurance and other benefit forms used by

older adults?



o  Does hearing impairment act to reduce the quality and number of

social interactions, introduce negative affect, and thus contribute

indirectly to increased use of services and avoidance of social

interaction?



o  What are the relations among social network size, perceived quality

of network connections, and cognitive functioning in older old adults?



o  What aspects of the cognitive and perceptual functioning of older

adults facilitate or limit adherence to treatment, management, and

monitoring schedules?



o  How can medical devices be best designed to suit the cognitive, and

perceptual limitations of frail older users?



o  In what ways can knowledge of the comprehension and decision making

processes of older adults facilitate health professionals'

communication with them?



o  How do cognitive and perceptual factors that differ by age influence

the detection, recognition, and avoidance of risk in natural

situations, involving immediate risk (e.g., crossing the street as a

pedestrian) and delayed risk (e.g., health dangers associated with

eating habits)?



o  Given current knowledge of factors involved in driving crashes among

older adults, how can risk of injury be reduced in this population

without compromising their mobility?



o  What cognitive, perceptual, and affective factors predict preventive

health behaviors among older adults (e.g., screening for age-associated

conditions and diseases, influenza vaccination)?



Methodology



A sound research plan is essential.  Most critical is achieving

adequate between-individual variation in the intellectual abilities to

be studied and choosing measures of outcome that are susceptible to

analysis and yield sufficient data given the sampling strategy of the

proposed work.  Such a strategy will allow powerful tests of the

hypothesized relation between ability level and functional outcome.

Age-varied designs (e.g., young versus old, young-old versus old-old)

may elucidate the relationship between ability and functional outcome

where there are clear reasons for expecting different relations between

ability and functional outcome among groups of different ages.



Because of the stress on functional outcome, designs will likely

require the assessment of function in some field setting.  For some

measures, available statistics may already exist (e.g., state records

of driving crashes). However, for other measures (e.g., assessment of

errors in personal financial management) new methodologies and

instruments for data collection may have to be developed.  Grant

applications focusing on such development are welcome provided that

they are themselves rooted in a strong theoretical and empirical base.

Researchers may wish to use advances in voice-mail technology, in

electronic recording of individual events, and in portable computers to

assist in data-gathering in field settings.



STUDY POPULATIONS



NIH POLICY CONCERNING INCLUSION OF MINORITIES AND WOMEN AS SUBJECTS IN

RESEARCH



Applications for clinical research grants and cooperative agreements

that involve human subjects are required to include minorities and both

genders in study populations so that research findings can be of

benefit to all persons at risk of the disease, disorder, or condition

under study; special emphasis should be placed on the need for

inclusion of minorities and women in studies of diseases, disorders,

and conditions which disproportionately affect them.  This policy

applies to all research involving human subjects and human materials,

and applies to males and females of all ages.  If one gender and/or

minorities are excluded or are inadequately represented in this

research, particularly in proposed population-based studies, a clear,

compelling rationale for exclusion or inadequate representation should

be provided.  The composition of the proposed study population must be

described in terms of gender and racial/ethnic group, together with a

rationale for its choice.  In addition, gender and racial/ethnic issues

should be addressed in developing a research design and sample size

appropriate for the scientific objectives of the study.



Applicants are urged to assess carefully the feasibility of including

the broadest possible representation of minority groups.  However, NIH

recognizes that it may not be feasible or appropriate in all research

projects to include representation of the full array of United States

racial/ethnic minority populations (i.e., American Indians or Alaskan

Natives, Asians or Pacific Islanders, Blacks, Hispanics).

Investigators must provide the rationale for studies on single minority

population groups.



Applications for support of research involving human subjects must

employ a study design with minority and/or gender representation (by

age distribution, risk factors, incidence/prevalence, etc.) appropriate

to the scientific objectives of the research.  It is not an automatic

requirement for the study design to provide statistical power to answer

the questions posed for men and women and racial/ethnic groups

separately; however, whenever there are scientific reasons to

anticipate differences between men and women, and racial/ethnic groups,

with regard to the hypothesis under investigation, applicants should

include an evaluation of these gender and minority group differences in

the proposed study.  If adequate inclusion of one gender and/or

minorities is impossible or inappropriate with respect to the purpose

of the only study population available, or there is a disproportionate

representation of one gender or minority/majority group, the rationale

for the study population must be well explained and justified.



The NIH funding components will not make awards of grants, cooperative

agreements or contracts that do not comply with this policy.  For

research awards which are covered by this policy, awardees will report

annually on enrollment of women and men, and on the race and ethnicity

of subjects.



APPLICATION PROCEDURES



Applications are to be submitted on the grant application form PHS 398

(rev. 9/91) and will be accepted at the standard application deadlines

as indicated in the application kit.  Application kits are available at

most institutional offices of sponsored research and may be obtained

from the Office of Grant Inquiries, Division of Research Grants,

National Institutes of Health, Westwood Building, Room 240, Bethesda,

MD 20892, telephone (301) 435-0714.  The title and number of the

announcement must be typed in Section 2a on the face page of the

application.  Applicants for FIRST awards should note that three

letters of reference must be submitted with the application.



The completed original and five permanent, legible copies of the PHS

398 form must be submitted to:



Division of Research Grants

National Institutes of Health

Westwood Building, Room 240

Bethesda, MD  20892**



REVIEW PROCEDURES



Applications received under this announcement will be assigned to an

initial review group (IRG) in accordance with established PHS referral

guidelines.  The IRGs, consisting primarily of non-Federal scientific

and technical experts, will review the applications for scientific and

technical merit in accordance with the standard NIH peer review

procedures.  Notification of the review recommendations will be sent to

the applicant after the initial review.  Applications will receive a

second-level review by an appropriate National Advisory Council, whose

review may be based on policy considerations as well as scientific

merit.  Only applications recommended for further consideration by the

Council may be considered for funding.



AWARD CRITERIA



Applications recommended for further consideration by an appropriate

advisory council will be considered for funding on the basis of overall

scientific, clinical, and technical merit of the proposal as determined

by peer review, appropriateness of budget estimates, program needs and

balance, policy considerations, adequacy of provisions for the

protection of human subjects, and availability of funds.



INQUIRIES



Written and telephone inquiries are encouraged.  The opportunity to

clarify any issues or questions from potential applicants is welcome.



Direct inquiries regarding programmatic issues to:



Dr. Robin A. Barr

Behavioral and Social Research

National Institute on Aging

Gateway Building, Room 2C234

Bethesda, MD  20892

Telephone:  (301) 496-3136

FAX:  (301) 402-0051

E-mail:  Barr@NIHNIAGW.BITNET



Questions on fiscal matters may be directed to:



Ms. Linda Whipp

Grants and Contracts Management

National Institute on Aging

Gateway Building, Room 2N212

Bethesda, MD  20892

Telephone:  (301) 496-1472



AUTHORITY AND REGULATIONS



This program is described in the Catalog of Federal Domestic

Assistance, No. 93.866.  Awards are made under the authority of the

Public Health Service Act, Section 301 (42 USC 241) and administered

under PHS grants policies and Federal Regulations, most specifically at

42 CFR Part 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.



References



Hasher, L. & Zacks, R.T. (1988).  Working memory, comprehension and

aging: A review and a new view.  In G.H. Bower (Ed.) The psychology of

learning and motivation: Vol. 22 (pp.  193-225).  San Diego, CA,

Academic Press.



Morrell, R.W., Park, D.C. & Poon, L.W. (1990).  Effects of labeling

techniques on memory and comprehension of prescription information in

young and old adults.  Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences,

45, P166-172.



Morrow, D.G., Leirer, V.O. & Altieri, P.A. (1992). Aging, expertise and

narrative processing.  Psychology and Aging, 7, 376-388.



Owsley, C., Ball, K., Sloan, M.E., Roenker, D.L & Bruni, J.R. (1991).

Visual/cognitive correlates of vehicle accidents in older drivers.

Psychology and Aging, 6, 403- 415.



Salthouse, T.A. (1991). Theoretical perspectives on cognitive aging.

Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.



.




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