I am interested in the relationships between the brain and aging-related changes in metabolism and movement. The natural course of aging can change the way the body uses fats and sugars and increase the risk for obesity and type 2 diabetes. Aging also increases the risk for slower gait and increased fall risk. Healthy exercise and eating can help preserve and recover both cognitive and physical function in aging. My lab is interested in studying the effects of different lifestyle interventions on both the body and brain in aging to help people live fulfilling lives.
My lab uses functional and structural MRI and PET neuroimaging to study the brain in humans. I am co-director of the Bioimaing Resource Core of the Wake Forest Claude D. Pepper Older Adults Independence Center and am a member of the Wake Forest Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center and Center for Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism. My lab collaborates closely with the Laboratory for Complex Brain Networks. Current research interests in the lab include:
1. Studying the effects of movement and social engagement on physical function, cognition, and well-being in older adults with memory loss and their carepartners using dance. This work is a partnership with Christina Soriano, MFA, Associate Provost for the Arts and Associate Professor at Wake Forest University. To learn more about this work, you can visit www.improvment.us, where you will find video clips, press coverage, and more information about the study, community classes, and trainings. If you are interested in participating in our randomized trial, called IMOVE, you can also visit www.wakehealth.edu/beinvolved/IMOVE to submit your contact information so our study team can give you a call.
2. Investigating the effects of type 2 diabetes and obesity on the brain. We are currently analyzing data from two studies looking at the effects of aerobic exercise and weight loss on the brain in older adults with obesity and heart failure with preserved ejection fraction.
The FEMME study is an ongoing study investigating the effects of estrogen on the brain. Intriguing new findings show that type 2 diabetes may alter the way the brain uses sugars and fatty acids in the presence of estrogen. This study tests whether a short-term estrogen patch changes the way the brain uses fatty acids and sugars in postmenopausal women with and without diabetes. If you are interested in participating in the FEMME study, you can find out more on https://www.wakehealth.edu/beinvolved/eng/studies/IRB00049740.
3. Community partnerships. Our lab works with Senior Services, Inc. in Winston-Salem, NC around their arts-based programming, including their intergenerational Kindermusik classes at the Williams Adult Day Center and in-home arts opportunities.
Our lab engages with graduate students, medical students, undergraduates, and high school students. We also have opportunities for adult volunteers. Please feel free to reach out to us about these opportunities.
Educational Program InvolvementGraduate Programs in Neuroscience
Program Research Interest: Addiction and Substance Abuse, Behavioral and Systems Neurobiology, Development and Plasticity, Molecular Neurobiology, Neurological Disease and Aging, Neuropharmacology, Sensory Neurobiology