This lab explores cognitive changes throughout aging and their neural basis, with a strong focus on state-of-the-art cognitive approaches and multi-modal imaging. We deal with two main themes: understanding cognitive aging and understanding individual differences in susceptibility to aging and Alzheimer's disease. We are also conducting other studies, including a study of the natural history of Alzheimer’s disease, and cognitive intervention trials in healthy elders that focus on both exercise and cognitive stimulation.
Our laboratory integrates neuropsychology, neuroimaging, basic science, and epidemiology to understand the determinants and cognitive consequences of aging and neurodegenerative disease. With a special focus on structural neuroimaging, we have been particularly interested in the role of white matter and cerebrovascular factors in cognitive aging in general and in Alzheimer’s disease specifically, in addition to age and disease-associated changes in brain structure.
The overarching goal of our lab has been to elucidate the effects of Alzheimer's disease (AD) and related disorders on cognitive and metacognitive functions. Our lab investigates the neuropsychological profiles of AD, frontotemporal dementia, Lewy body dementia, and other age-related neurodegenerative diseases, with the goal of improving early detection and differential diagnosis. Against this backdrop, our lab has examined variability in the subjective experience of memory loss (i.e., metamemory) in AD, and is currently focused on investigating the utility of Subjective Cognitive Decline (SCD) as a marker of pre-clinical AD.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging allows safe and noninvasive visualization and quantification of brain changes for many aspects of the brain, including grey and white matter tissues, brain metabolism, neurovascular pathology, and functional activation for brain processes. The lab of Dr. Yunglin Gazes focuses on the applications of neuroimaging tools to understand aging and neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. The Gazes lab utilizes the latest neuroimaging techniques to examine the neural mechanisms supporting cognitive and psychosocial changes in aging and neurodegenerative diseases.
The primary focus of this lab is to understand how lifestyle factors can help promote healthy aging and prevent dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases. More specifically, the lab aims to identify risk and protective factors for aging and dementia, including but not limited to, diet and nutrition, physical activities, leisure activities, sleep, and air pollution. Ongoing studies in the lab also aim to identify the underlying biological mechanisms, as well as explore the role of lifestyle factors in cognitive aging and dementia among diverse populations.
Our lab focuses on development and application of multivariate analytic techniques, for understanding the functional activation and connectivity patterns underlying basic cognitive processes across the lifecourse. From cross-sectional and longitudinal functional MRI data, we seek to identify robust cognitive activation patterns underlying specific cognitive domains using non-parametric resampling techniques and held-out data validation. These functional activation patterns are not the endpoint of our investigation, but a means to further our understanding of the brain areas that are involved cognitive information processing, and their change across the lifespan. Thus, our analytic framework probes the activation patterns for crucial points of topographic reorganization in the lifecourse, and the relationship of the patterns to demographic, genetic, occuptional and brain-structural factors.
Our lab conducts translational research to understand and treat the cognitive symptoms of multiple sclerosis. Our approach incorporates behavioral and pharmacological methods, as well as multimodal neuroimaging to develop mechanistic models that advance understanding of specific cognitive phenotypes in MS. We also focus on modifiable lifestyle factors including exercise and physical activity, sleep, diet, and social support as treatment targets in interventions aiming to improve brain and cognitive health of people living with MS. Funding support for the Leavitt Lab comes from the National Institutes of Health, the United States Department of Defense, and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Disparities in cognitive aging and risk for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias are well-established, but the mechanisms that maintain these disparities are not well-understood. The Disparities in Cognitive Aging and Dementia Research Laboratory aims to identify causal relationships between sociocultural, economic, educational, linguistic, biological, and genetic factors and cognitive function and cognitive decline among racially and ethnically diverse older adults. This is accomplished through careful examination of brain health and neuropsychological function among diverse individuals, and assessment of potential mechanisms throughout the lifecourse using longitudinal data from prospectively followed cohorts. One focus of this work is to identify factors that promote cognitive resilience in populations with early life disadvantage. The goal of this work is to identify potential interventions for promoting brain health among diverse people, and reducing disparities in cognitive aging and dementia.