Research Interests: Risk Factors for Alzheimer's Disease and Other Dementias, Cognitive Functioning and Assessment in Older Adults, Dementia Caregiving and Technology Aids, and Adult General Neuropsychology
I am presently an professor with primary affiliation with the Combined Ph.D. program in Psychology. As a clinical neurospychologist, my research interests involve the study of severe cognitive deficits in the elderly. For the past twelve years, my colleagues and I have examined genetic and environmental factors that appear to influence the risk of developing severe cognitive impairments such as dementia of the Alzheimer's type. In a project funded by the National Institute on Aging, we have conducted interviews, cognitive testing, and clinical evaluations in a population of over 5,000 seniors residing in Cache County, Utah. This project has been ongoing since 1995 and has involved four county-wide screens for dementia, in addition to collecting longitudinal data on cognition, occupational history, and health and psychiatric information. Currently, our focus has expanded to explore the question why some individuals with mild cognitive impairment, or MCI, progress to develop dementia while others do not. Additionally, we are investigating genetic and environmental factors that influence the clinical expression of dementia after onset. In this project, we are among only a few studies in the world to follow a population based sample of individuals with dementia and their caregivers.
As a result of work in the above projects, many research questions have been addressed and several more are on the horizon. With students and colleagues from University of Utah, Utah State, Duke, Brigham Young, and Johns Hopkins Universities, our research team has studied diverse topics of aging such as the cognitive correlates of late-life depression, the influence of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease on memory and other cognitive abilities, the role of various medications in reducing the risk for Alzheimer's disease, neuroimaging correlates of cognitive impairment, behavioral disturbances in dementia, and the influence of family history of Alzheimer's disease and other genetic factors on an individual's cognitive performance. Several of these studies have been presented at national and international conferences and published in medical journals. Student investigators have opportunities to serve primary roles in data collection, designing and conducting analyses, writing-up projects for publication, and presenting their research at seminars and scientific conferences.