- Brain Awareness Week
Prefrontal Brain Structures, Aging, and Decision-Making
The organizing theme of my empirical work is the study of developmental changes in cognition. My main line of research involves the study of aging cognition. I am particularly interested in how attention and emotion impact cognitive functioning, such as memory and executive functioning, in both healthy and clinical populations of older adults. Utilizing an experimental gambling task that is designed to mimic real-world decision-making, we found that a sizeable subset of older adults failed to demonstrate appropriate risk-aversiveness, and instead continued to select from the disadvantageous decks in a manner reminiscent of patients with bilateral ventromedial prefrontal lobe lesions. Such findings may explain why older adults are at an increased vulnerability to advertising fraud (American Association of Retired Persons, 1996). We are currently investigating the neuroanatomical underpinnings of such disadvantageous decision-making, using structural MRI studies and psychophysiological measurement. Related interests include real-world decision-making abilities (e.g., medical and financial decision-making), recovery of cognitive function following stroke, and the relationships among aging, cancer, and cognition.
Presently funded grants: 2005-Present: Cancer and Aging Program P20 Pilot Program, "The Effects of Chemotherapy on Decision-Making in Older Colon Cancer Patients."
2005-Present: American Cancer Society Seed Grant Program, "Neuropsychological Sequelae of Anthracycline- and Non-Anthracycline-Containing Chemotherapy Regimens in Follicular Indolent Lymphoma Survivors."
2005-Present: University of Iowa Clinical Research Pilot Grant Program, "Recovery of Cognitive Function Following Stroke."
2004-Present: National Institute of Aging (NIA) K01, "Prefrontal Brain Structures, Aging, and Decision-Making."