Research

We have several on-going studies in the lab. In general, our work focuses on human cognition (memory, thinking, attention) and brain function. We also examine individual differences in variables that may influence cognitive and brain aging, such as physical fitness.

Our studies usually include a behavioral testing session, and may also include Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) or cardiopulmonary fitness testing.

Behavioral Testing

These sessions usually require one or two appointments, each lasting up to 2 hours. The sessions are a series of brain teasers that involve paper and pencil, verbal, and computer-based tasks designed to examine thinking, memory, and attention. This may seem a bit daunting, but most participants enjoy the challenge, and of course, we give rest breaks as needed throughout the session.

Neuropsych Testing

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Example of participant during behavioral testing.

Cardiopulmonary Testing

To assess physical fitness, study participants walk on a treadmill while we take measures of their heart and lung functions. Participants wear a mouth piece and electrodes on their chest during the exercise test. The intensity of exercise increases at regular intervals by increasing the speed and incline of the treadmill. The exercise portion itself takes less than 20 minutes, but the entire appointment takes about 90 minutes, because additional questions will be asked regarding mood, health and physical activities. We also collect a small sample of blood during the visit, which we use to examine additional indicators of physical fitness.

CPX Testing

Fitness

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Example of participant on the treadmill, wearing electrodes and mouth piece.

MRI session

For the MRI session, participants lie on their back in the MRI scanner, and the scanner takes pictures of their brain while they look at words and pictures that are presented through a set of goggles. The session takes about 3 hours, although on average time in the scanner is less than 2 hours.

In addition to the goggles worn on the face, participants hold a button box in their right hand to answer questions while viewing images in the scanner. The scanner occasionally shakes and makes a series of loud clicking noises. Participants are given ear plugs and padding around the head to lessen the noise and make the experience more comfortable.

Here’s an example of what the scanner noise sounds like.

 

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Example of participant lying in the scanner, wearing goggles and holding the button box in her left hand.

Please call 857-364-4024 for more information.