How does it STAC up? Revisiting the scaffolding theory of aging and cognition

Neuropsychol Rev. 2014 Sep;24(3):355-70. doi: 10.1007/s11065-014-9270-9. Epub 2014 Aug 21.


"The Scaffolding Theory of Aging and Cognition (STAC)", proposed in 2009, is a conceptual model of cognitive aging that integrated evidence from structural and functional neuroimaging to explain how the combined effects of adverse and compensatory neural processes produce varying levels of cognitive function. The model made clear and testable predictions about how different brain variables, both structural and functional, were related to cognitive function, focusing on the core construct of compensatory scaffolding. The present paper provides a revised model that integrates new evidence about the aging brain that has emerged since STAC was published 5 years ago. Unlike the original STAC model, STAC-r incorporates life-course factors that serve to enhance or deplete neural resources, thereby influencing the developmental course of brain structure and function, as well as cognition, over time. Life-course factors also influence compensatory processes that are engaged to meet cognitive challenge, and to ameliorate the adverse effects of structural and functional decline. The revised model is discussed in relation to recent lifespan and longitudinal data as well as emerging evidence about the effects of training interventions. STAC-r goes beyond the previous model by combining a life-span approach with a life-course approach to understand and predict cognitive status and rate of cognitive change over time.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Neurological
  • Young Adult