Broadly, the lab is interested in aging, attention, and memory and how environmental factors and traits such as circadian rhythms or second language acquisition can alter what we believe to be true of all the above.
A major goal for the lab is to explore the intersection between more long-term lifestyle factors and short-term contextual factors
Research in the lab uses behavior and neuroimaging techniques together to explore the themes outlined above.
How depression impacts Grey and White Matter Microstructural Organization
Depression is a significant risk factor for conversion from healthy aging to mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and from MCI to Alzheimer's Disease (AD). The pathways affected by depression and dementia are thought to overlap. However, evidence linking the two is tenuous. At CAMH, I explored how depression affects grey and white matter microstructure across the spectrum of healthy aging to dementia.
Time of Day Effects
Circadian rhythms (from circa-diem, or "about a day") occur everywhere in nature and affect most biological systems. Importantly for psychologists, they also affect behavior - particularly attention. Humans tend to be most alert and able to respond to demanding situations at their circadian peak, and this peak in arousal shifts across the lifespan. Older adults get up early in the morning and tend to go to bed early, while adolescents do the opposite. Many research studies fail to consider that testing older adults late in the day puts them at a disadvantage.
We show that when you test older adults at their optimal time of day, the morning, they have younger-looking brain activity patterns and networks. This research suggests that what we typically think of as age may be partially attributed to other factors.
Bilingualism and Cogitive Reserve
Managing two languages in one mind is cognitively demanding. Bilingual individuals must select the appropriate language for a given context from two or more competing representations. Over a lifetime, it is thought that practice managing and selecting the proper linguistic response leads to domain-general cognitive benefits. By way of example, being bilingual has been shown to delay the onset of dementia by up to 4 years.
One current project is examining the functional and structural correlates of bilingualism in aging. We are employing a multitude of different imaging and behavioral techniques. Our preliminary results align with our findings from a recent review: bilinguals rely on frontal circuits less than monolinguals do. This pattern of responding may help to explain why bilinguals weather aging better than monolinguals do.