Key Studies on a Wide Range of Human Brain Functions

We study a wide range of questions in cognitive neuroscience including perception, attention, memory and motivation. Our research is conducted on both normal young adults, older adults, and clinical populations. This wide range of techniques allow us to explore issues ranging from cognitive aging to functional connectivity.

A central focus of the research conducted in our lab is the integration of different neuroimaging methods including fast optical (EROS), optical spectroscopy (NIRS), functional MRI (fMRI) and event-related potentials (ERPs). By combining different methods, we get a more complete picture of the physiological events that occur in the brain during information processing. Optical methods, which record both neuronal signals (EROS) and slower signals related to hemodynamic activity (NIRS), play a pivotal role in this endeavor. This wide range of techniques allow us to explore issues ranging from cognitive aging to functional connectivity. Please read the proceeding paragraphs to learn about two ongoing projects, and click on the icons below them to learn more about the methods and topics of interest.

Active Grants (last updated 7/1/2019)

Optical measures of cerebral arterial function as predictors of brain and cognitive aging
NIA R01 grant AG059878 ($3,459,850)

Inactivity and lack of cardiorespiratory fitness are among the most important risk factors for cerebral arteriosclerosis, a condition that has long been associated with steep cognitive decline in older individuals, ultimately leading to dementia. In this research, based on a mixed cross-sectional and longitudinal design on young-old individuals (50-70 years of age) not yet affected by MCI or dementia, we investigate the use of novel measures of cerebral arterial elasticity (an optical measure of the cerebral arterial pulse, pulse-DOT), for the measurement of early stages of cerebral arteriosclerosis. Specifically, we use these measures to investigate a pathogenetic pathway leading from aging and low physical fitness, through the development of cerebral arteriosclerosis, hypoperfusion and reduced cerebrovascular reactivity, to structural brain alterations and cognitive decline.

Role of arterial stiffness in the decline of cognitive control in aging
NIA R01 grant AG062666 ($3,024,580)

Declines in cognitive control are among the most important problems that characterize cognitive aging and dementias, such as Alzheimer’s disease. In this research, we hypothesize that this decline is, at least in part, attributable to a decline in arterial elasticity (i.e., arteriosclerosis), through a chain-of-events in which structural changes in gray and white matter and changes in brain function (both in the functional organization of the brain, as well as in phasic and oscillatory brain activities) play important mediating roles. Specifically, we use a cross-sectional design with a large sample size (300 adults, 25-75 years of age, 50% females and with sizeable presence of minorities) to test a series of mediation models describing a chain linking arteriosclerosis to brain atrophy (both in gray and white matter), to changes in brain function (measured with both fMRI and EEG/ERPs), to behavioral changes (drop in performance in cognitive control tasks).

Want to get involved with our CNL Lab?

If you’re excited about research and innovation such as using imaging technology to manipulate brain activity, you belong with our group. We know talented researchers like yourself have options, but this is the place you need to be if you’re interested in cognitive neuroimaging.

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