How does aging affect us?

Posted on 3 June 2015 in Research

Author: Dr Elaine Leung
Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Fellow
Institute of Cancer Sciences

University of Glasgow       


One of the key scientific questions we are trying to address at Glasgow University is how aging affects us? Scientists first noticed cells in mammals stop dividing as they age in the 1960s, now known as cell aging (a.k.a cellular senescence).

At this year’s Glasgow Science Festival, we are hoping to illustrate to a general audience of over 15,000 visitors, the multiplicative effects of aging on appearance, cognition and our cells.

Initially we struggled to find a way to demonstrate the effects of aging on cognition. Assessing changes in cognition is notoriously difficult. We had planned to modify existing mental tests, such as the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE), as part of our activities, however, the social and cultural background of the test subjects can influence the results of these tests - they are far from ideal.

Like all scientists, we went in search of something better from published scientific reports for testing cognition - a test that suits visitors from all backgrounds. That’s how we found Cantab Connect Research, the latest cognitive testing application from Cambridge Cognition.

Using Cantab Connect Research allows our team to carry out consistent validated testing with meaningful outcomes, on multiple devices, with all of the data being automatically captured and stored in a central database.

Planning the perfect activity with Cantab tests

Before we can take Cantab to the public, we had a go ourselves in a mini-pilot. Initially, we had combined memory and reaction components into a single pilot activity (see Rachael in the photo tackling the rather challenging memory test - Paired Associates Learning).

After a number of pilots, we settled for the five-choice Reaction Time test (RTI), which is currently used in stroke rehabilitation research by Prof. Jonathan Evans’s team at the University of Glasgow. The five-choice RTI is a sensitive test to detect minor differences in cognition related to increased chronological age.

We are thrilled to be using Cantab Connect Research at the Glasgow Science Festival. This collaboration does not only help us showcase our local research, but Britain’s capability to develop practical health innovations that have relevance to researchers and clinicians worldwide. On June 7th we intend to test over 400 visitors during the festival using the five-choice reaction time test in Cantab Connect Research to contribute to our research on the affect of aging.

The Glasgow Science Festival Internship team will deliver the results of their activities at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Argyle Street, Glasgow, G3 8AG, on 7 June 2015. For more information visit

This blog was written by Dr. Elaine Leung on behalf of the Glasgow Science Festival Internship team.

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