My research interests focus on cognitive mechanisms that underlie the attention and memory deficits seen in healthy aging and early stage dementia of the Alzheimer type (DAT). There has been considerable interest in the ability to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease (AD) in the earliest possible stage of the disease, thus discriminating healthy aging from early-stage DAT. Recent studies indicate that the Alzheimer’s disease process may be present in the brain for years before the appearance of clinical symptoms, underscoring the need to reliably identify more specific changes that could serve as antecedent markers for DAT. Episodic memory loss has long been considered the primary marker for the first clinical manifestation of the disease. However, our lab and others have been accumulating evidence documenting clear changes in components of attention in both healthy aging and early-stage DAT. In a large scale longitudinal study, we are examining a set of cognitive tasks that target attentional selection, executive control, and attentional control contributions to memory performance to determine whether they are predictive of the early onset and progression of Alzheimer’s disease. In this work, we are exploring the utility of subtle characteristics of RT performance (e.g., intraindividual variability and ex-Gaussian analyses) to serve as prodromal markers for risk for developing AD. We also relate these behavioral attentional measures to the accumulating biomarkers (e.g., PIB, CSF, APOe4) that place individuals at risk for the disease. Finally, we are also examining the role of specific individual difference factors (i.e., personality, cognitive stimulation, social engagement, physical activity, life stressors) to examine the extent to which these variables modulate the brain-behavior relationships.
CV: Jan Duchek Cv